CWA Next Generation activists in higher education from California, Texas, Mississippi, and Tennessee met in Nashville this week for two intensive days of training on how to organize and lead student debt clinics for workers at their institutions.
More than 43 million people have student debt, and one out of every five of them is in default, meaning they've been unable to make a payment on their student debt for over a year. With that many people struggling, it's clear that the system is broken.
Student debt clinics provide members with information about government-sponsored programs to lower student debt payments or even forgive debt after a number of on-time payments. Some CWA members who've already attended clinics sponsored by the Next Generation program have seen their payments drop by hundreds of dollars per month.
Clinics also provide an opportunity to sign up and engage new members and build our movement to take on the big banks, stop privatization, and get money out of politics. All of these issues are at the center of the student debt crisis.
Tom Smith, lead organizer for United Campus Workers, CWA Local 3865, in Tennessee, said, "I feel immense relief about student debt after this training. I know now there is light at the end of the tunnel for my family and so many CWA members because of income-driven repayment plans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I'm really excited to share this incredible information with our members and to organize to change what is clearly a broken system."
Missy Benavidez, organizer with Texas State Employees Union, CWA Local 6186, said, "The training gave me a deep understanding that student debt is a collective problem that requires a collective solution. For too long, those of us with student debt have felt like it was our problem, that we shouldn't talk about it, and that we were powerless to change our situation. The training gave us tools to alleviate the often crushing student debt payments that millions of working people and families are struggling to pay. Through the union, we will build a powerful movement to solve the urgent problems we all face."
CWA Next Gen activists participate in student debt clinic training in Tennessee.