What: YSTL’s Second Birthday Party
When: Saturday, June 8, show up around 6pm for food, program starts at 7 pm, stay later for drinks, more food and fun!
Where: Gya Community Art Gallery, 2700 Locust
Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.
All proceeds will go towards our Student Debt Campaign, which aims to implement radical financial literacy to help students make smarter decisions about taking on debt, as well as move them to action to address the student debt crisis! It will also help us train a new generation of young activists in the St. Louis area.
I am a student at the public university with the highest student debt in Missouri: $27,300. Students in my university and across the state are hurting because of the massive student debt they accrue in order to get a education. We are not the only ones. Student debt across the country has reached one trillion dollars during the Obama Administration under the watch of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That is not acceptable.
Students from across the country met with Duncan to hold him accountable for making education affordable for our students. Specifically, our first demand was to to sever the student loan contract with Sallie Mae. If not met, we wanted additional quality indicators to the scorecard that the Department uses to evaluate contracts with existing debt holders, indicators like the number of graduates enrolled in postive programs like income based repayment plans and pay as you earn. We asserted the need for Secretary Duncan to publicly call for Albert Lord, the CEO of Sallie Mae, to meet with us. Lastly we wanted clarity of the Department’s relationship with Building Hope, an umbrella organization that gives grants to charter schools, including D.C. Charter Cesar Chavez (of which Albert Lord is a board member) for illegally firing a teacher for organizing in her workplace. Furthermore, we wanted a commitment to create a policy that would sever ties with any organization that breaks the law at any time. These were our important demands to concretely benefit students who are suffering from the pervasive practices of Sallie Mae at every level.
“People power must be visible,” said the late, great California organizer Fred Ross. He’s right: a few key insiders in a meeting does little good in building power. Power comes from the relationships of the many together. Our people power was neon-bright with a multi-racial group of students from all over the country in a variety of academic programs. We had key board members of the United States Students Association, the Student Labor Action Project and leaders from Jobs with Justice along that conference room table. Perhaps the concrete shook a bit from the force of this commanding group as we left the building together. I felt a rumble.
This unity was an important takeway for me, a Missouri Jobs with Justice student co-chair and student organizer who did not know anyone else prior to the meeting. Meeting new folks was great. Taking action with them was better. This cohesive presence was key to moving forward on some of our demands, including adding new positive criteria to the loan servicing contracts and encouraging Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord to meet with us. Through compelling personal stories, we forced Secretary Duncan to make choices. That’s what people power is all about.
University of Missouri St. Louis
Senior, History Education Major
Young Activists United St. Louis organizer
Missouri Jobs with Justice Student Co-chair
Last Tuesday, as part of the Student Debt Film Festival, students from Dr. Hoagland’s class presented their short documentary, “How the Debt Crisis Impacts UMSL.”
Cate Marquis of UMSL’s The Current reports on the documentary debut here.
Last fall, YSTL took a hard look at the Student Debt Crisis. They pulled together students, alumni, educators, and community members from around St. Louis at their Student Debt Conference to begin a discussion on how to take action against the staggering $1 trillion that exists in student loan debt and hampers access to higher education.
After much discussion, YSTL’s campaign hopes to begin to address the heavy burden of student debt by creating and implementing an addition to the St. Louis Public School’s financial literacy curriculum. At the present moment, the curriculum makes little mention of what it means to finance higher education, despite the fact that its aim is to prepare students to make responsible financial decision.
Throughout the next six months, the group will be working to create and present this addition to the St. Louis Public School system. Those wishing to take part in this campaign can contact YSTL at firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by one of our monthly meetings.