National Education Association kicks off NEA’s Degrees Not Debt Week of Action

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High cost of college may keep students from pursuing higher education and prevent potential teachers from entering the classroom

NEA Student Program Members at FAMU rally for NEA's Degrees Not Debt campaign

“It’s time for students of all majors to come together and tell Congress and their state legislatures to provide real solutions." -NEA Student Program Chair Chelsey Herrig

Between November 10th and 18th, as part of NEA’s Degrees Not Debt Week of Action, National Education Association (NEA) members from Alabama to Arizona will be hosting campus-based and community events to spread the word about the crisis of student loan debt in the United States and provide much-needed resources on how to reduce or eliminate it.

It’s all part of NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign, which has the support of tens of thousands of educators and students who believe that there are solutions to the debt crisis and that those solutions include income-driven loan repayment programs, as well as loan-forgiveness programs for educators.

Today, NEA released a new video to help borrowers learn about options to reduce their student loan debt payments and determine if they’re eligible for loan forgiveness programs. Meanwhile, NEA members have more than 30 public events scheduled during the Week of Action, including at Roosevelt University in Chicago, University of Texas Rio Grande, University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Arizona at Tempe, and the University of the District of Columbia. NEA members will be talking to students and members of the community about ways they can reduce their monthly college loan payments and lobby lawmakers to act to make college more affordable.

The facts are staggering: Americans currently owe $1.2 trillion in student debt; seven in 10 college seniors who graduated last year had student loan debt; and, the average debt was $29,400 per borrower.

“NEA’s student members have sounded the alarm for us, as college is so much more expensive than when I attended,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “We’re seeing new educators with over $50,000 in student loan debt—way more than their first year’s salary as a teacher and much higher of a payment than they can afford to pay. So we’re standing beside all college students and helping them fight for more affordable solutions, such as the ability to refinance their debt, and connecting them to resources they may not know about, such as loan forgiveness programs.”

Student loan debt isn't just a burden—it has become a barrier to the American Dream. NEA believes that there are solutions to the college affordability crisis. NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign and thousands of pledge-takers are calling on Congress to:

  •     Increase need-based federal aid, like Pell Grants.
  •     Allow borrowers to refinance their loan interest rates in the same way that homeowners can refinance their mortgages.
  •     Expand loan forgiveness programs, especially for people working in public service careers like education.

“Members of the NEA Student Program want to be the next generation of great educators but they are overwhelmed by the huge amount of student loan debt they are facing,” said NEA Student Program Chair Chelsey Herrig. “It’s time for students of all majors to come together and tell Congress and their state legislatures to provide real solutions. That means more funding for higher education programs to keep tuitions down and the ability to refinance, as nobody should be forced to change their path because of high student debt.”

“Let’s challenge our new Congress to act to allow students to refinance their debt. It’s a bipartisan issue that everyone can get behind. And they must act, because student loan debt is threatening the next generation of public servants, our economy and our future as a country,” said Eskelsen García.

Follow NEA at twitter.com/neamedia. Join the discussion online using #DegreesNotDebt.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

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Sara Robertson
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