Group Makes Debt Disappear, Pays $3.9M Toward For-Profit Students’ Outstanding Private Loans

If you’re one of the millions of consumers saddled with hard to repay student loan debt, you’ve probably dreamed of the day when your repayment obligation is finished. While it will take most of us years to reach that fine day, others are finding their student loan debt have been paid in full by a group of strangers.

NPR reports that Rolling Jubilee, described as a network of activists who “liberate debtors through mutual aid,” purchased and eradicated nearly $3.9 million in private student loans, including some of those taken out by students attending school at collapsing for-profit education company Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

Michigan resident Courtney, a former student of Everest Institute’s dental assisting program, recently received a letter in the mail notifying her that the remainder of her college debt – $790.05 – had been forgiven.

The 24-year-old says she failed to keep up with her loan payments after being unable to find work in her desired field.

So just how is Rolling Jubilee, a faction of the group Strike Debt, able to forgive the student loan debt of random consumers?

First, a borrower’s debt must be delinquent, which generally means no payments have been made in as many as 180 days. At that point, the original loan issuer writes the debt off and sells it for pennies on the dollar to third-party collectors.

But instead of allowing the debt to go to third-party collectors – who have been known to use shady tactics to recoup debts from consumers – Rolling Jubilee buys it using donations raised online. Alternatively, the group simply pays off the remaining balance.

While the group previously focused on unpaid medical bills, paying nearly $15 million worth of debt, it’s now attempting to draw attention to borrowers with high-interest private loans from expensive for-profit colleges.

“Some debts are just and others are unjust,” Thomas Gokey, one of Strike Debt’s organizers, tells NPR about for-profit college loans. “They’re the worst of the worst.”

Gokey and the rest of those associated with Rolling Jubilee chose to target debt from Corinthian Colleges deliberately because the company is currently selling off or closing most of its campuses as part of an agreement with the Department of Education.

Just yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced a lawsuit against CCI for allegedly lying to students about job prospects at the same time as issuing predatory student loans. As part of the CFPB’s action, the Bureau is seeking the discharge of more than $569 million in private student loan debt owed to the company.

While Rolling Jubilee doesn’t yet have the backing to pay the debts of every former for-profit college student, they plan to continue providing relief to some.

“I feel better knowing that it’s off,” Courtney says of being student loan-free. “I feel like I can do something better with myself.”

These People Can Make Student Loans Disappear [NPR]