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Student Debt Clinics Save Borrowers Thousands

The program is led by AFT’s higher education division but available to all members — teachers, paraprofessionals, early childhood educators, higher education faculty and staff, nurses and health professionals, and public employees. The goal is to expand beyond big-picture policy work to reach those most affected by student debt.
“Higher education has historically been a vehicle for social mobility in our country,” said Kathleen Sanner, RN-BC, a cardiac care nurse in the University of Connecticut (UConn)’s student health services department. “In these times, while it’s often considered necessary for a decent job, it’s increasingly becoming out of reach,” added Sanner, who serves as president of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated UConn Professional Employees Association (UCPEA).
Elated. Empowered. Hopeful. Awakened. These are some of the words participants have used to describe what it felt like to learn they could ease their student debt.
Workshop participants are among the 40 million Americans who owe money on their student loans. While policies are now in place to help many of them get out from under their debt, many are unaware of their options. An estimated 33 million people qualify for debt forgiveness for public service, for example, but just over 222,000 have taken advantage of it. 
Click here to learn more about efforts to increase participation in debt relief programs.
At the same time individuals are finding relief from debt, our union and allied advocates continue to fight to change the paradigm of overwhelming student debt in our country.
A campaign launched in April by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and supported by the Obama Administration modernizes credit reporting. The effort is designed to enable loans to contribute in a positive way to credit history while protecting borrowers from inaccurate information. It also tackles inconsistency and lack of accountability among loan servicers while requiring borrowers receive personalized and easily understood information about payback options.
Click here to learn more about the program from the White House.
“A core function of government should be to make higher education more accessible by leveling the playing field,” said AFT Connecticut First Vice President Jean Morningstar. “Making sure those facing economic hardship can graduate from college debt-free must be a shared priority to help strengthen our struggling economy,” added Morningstar, who worked for nearly 30 years at UConn Health in Farmington. 
Our commitment to reducing student debt runs deep and includes a concern over its disproportionate impact on communities of color and lower-income people striving to reach the middle class.
Click here for individual stories of debt at AFT’s Voices on Campus blog.
“We can’t be a country that tells students higher education is essential, then saddle them with crippling debt and a compromised financial future,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We started the AFT’s student debt clinics not only to help student loan borrowers and their families lessen and manage their debt, but to empower a new generation of grass-roots activists to work to eradicate the national student debt epidemic,” she added.
Click here for our previous report on the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” campaign.

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