What would it cost to make college free?

Less than you think.

My new book is called "Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal," and it examines the historical underpinnings and social implications of our debt economy, and the ways in which we can break free. In a "Creditocracy," the finance industry commandeers our elected governments and the citizenry have to take out loans to meet their basic needs. The implications of mass indebtedness for any democracy are profound, and history shows that whenever a creditor class becomes as powerful as Wall Street, the result has been debt bondage for the bulk of the population.

Now is the time to fight back!

Proof: https://twitter.com/orbooks/status/531852620387069952/photo/1

Note: Thanks reddit! You guys are great! FYI, "Creditocracy" is 20% off if you are interested in the politics of debt, or still have more questions. I have a fulltime job and family obligations so I cannot answer ALL the questions that have been posed in response to this AMA. When I get a chance I will return to answer some of the more respectful ones.

Comments: 1672 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

kleinerDAX256 karma

Interesting proposal - one of the things that makes it different though is that you have to complete a certain level of education (not just a general diploma like you receive from a highschool) in the tiered school system. Meaning those who have worked hard enough can earn a degree - the US does not have this sort of system and lacks the equivalent of vocational and professional schools that are options for those who cannot get into a full University in Germany.

What is your proposal to make it that way in the US? One of the more interesting things I found in the US university system is that there is a definite percentage of students who are clearly not prepared/not up to the rigours of university work. Would those students also be allowed in "for free"?

Strike_Debt20 karma

People don't need degrees--only 30% of the jobs in the US workforce require a college degree--but they do deserve a decent education. Its what distinguishes a civilized society from a slavery state. The irony is that we are turning higher ed in the US into a form of economic bondage. I donlt blame my students for approaching college like some kind of transactional bargain--that';s the neoliberal mentality of our times--but it's not what education should be for.

Plexicraft159 karma

Did this guy really just plug his book, answer 1 question with a medium amount of upvotes, and leave?

Strike_Debt8 karma

If you check, you will see that I have answered dozens of questions, and, since I have a fulltime job, and other family obligations, I can't be on Reddit all the time. I'll be returning when I can...

titpocalypse3 karma

Why do you think college should be free? Why does everyone need to go to college? In my opinion sending everyone to college just makes a degree worthless. We don't need construction workers and ditch diggers with marketing degrees, and lets face it that's what will end up happening. Because when college is free why would someone choose to go to a technical or vocational school? In my opinion we should be sending less people to college. Please tell me why I'm wrong.

Strike_Debt1 karma

The answer depends on what you think education is for. Only 30% of the jobs in the US workforce actually require a college degree, but edcuation is not about job training, it's about learning how to be an active, open-minded citizen. Acknowledging this need as a right is what makes a civilized society. Otherwise, you might just view colleges as a form of cheap job training for Microsoft or GE

Scottmk42 karma

Once tuition prices are totally decoupled from the people attending them, what would prevent prices from spiraling out of control without even a push for worthwhile degrees to be provided?

Strike_Debt4 karma

Does that happen in any of the dozens of other countries where public education is fully supported?

Streiger1082 karma

Shit, I'm way too late. I've always wanted to know: why doesn't rolling jubilee ask people whose debt they purchase to please pay forward 1/100th of the value of their debt back to rolling jubilee so that you can continue purchasing more debt (or however much you bought it for)? Their debt is reduced dramatically and rolling jubilee gets to continue indefinitely.

Strike_Debt5 karma

We did consider doing that initially, but decided early on that the RJ was a short-term project with a limited purpose. Debt-buying is labor- intensive, and we did not want to be in that business for very long. The point was to do some public education, and to move on, which is what we are doing. Next project is Debt Collective (debtcollective.org)

WhatUnicorn2 karma

I understand the whole problem with paying for education, and putting your self in debt for life more or less, as you do in the US.

But how relevant would you say your book is for Europeans? And, how much does it treat the subject of debt as a general? (The national/world debt overall)

Strike_Debt4 karma

The book has a chapter on public debt, mostly European, and also a chapter on climate debt, and a final chapter on how to build an alternative economy that's not based on predatory lending

Basuru2 karma

It used to be free in the UK, but stopped being free. Do you think it's realistic to hope that could revert for us over here so that future generations can be educated for free?

Sidebar: Masters are prohibitively expensive and not covered by the SLC. :/

Strike_Debt2 karma

Not the case in Scotland, which is still part of the UK, and where universities are still free. Elected officials actually listen to the population there. In places where neoliberal governments have tried to privatize education, and where a strong protest movement has pushed back, the students won i.e Quebec and Chile.

a_g_bell1 karma

Can you explain more about how you buy debt and get rid of it?

Strike_Debt-1 karma

The Rolling Jubilee has bought more than $18 million worth of medical and student debt on the secondary debt market (it's very cheap) and abolished it. This is not a solution to the debt crisis, it's simply a way for us to publicize how that debt market works. If you know how cheaply a debt collector has bought your debt for, then you are going to have a different conversation with him/her when they call you up to collect on the full amount!!!

dkuhry1 karma

Considering the size of the US economy, and the fact that you state that the federal govt could run all public 2/4 year schools for around $15B, the question isn't if we could do it, by why are we not. I feel that one of the main reasons we don't, is because debt (from any source) is an excellent form of control. People want a better life for themselves so they go to school only to be so entrenched in debt that they end up slaving away in the economy.

How do we as a society break from this debt based control structure? Is it possible? Do large corporations control too much power to allow this to happen?

Feel free to comment on any of these questions. I say comment, as I doubt a true answer is yet know.

Edit: run, not fun.

Strike_Debt2 karma

Debt is never just an economic matter, it is, as you suggest, a relation of power. One of the reasons that student protest is no longer a rite of passage on campuses is because of the crushing debt burden. This is not a conspiracy theory, it was openly talked about as a response to 1960s protest (the so-called "excess of democracy") by Ronald Reagan, while runnning for California governor, and others. Hike tuition and this will stifle the appetite for dissent.....etc. And by protest, I mean learning how to be an active citizen, which is one of my versions of what higher ed is supposed to be for...

jackrousseau1 karma

How's the feud with Naked Capitalism going? Has it been resolved? I know their critiques were pretty harsh, especially the one about structuring the organization the "wrong way" for tax purposes.

Strike_Debt0 karma

I'm not aware of any "feud." As far as I know, none of the critiques you are referring to have held up. There have been no adverse tax consquences at all, just as our lawyers advised us.

RaptorO-10 karma

I know its a long shot and probably not the best way of getting a hold of you but its gonna become a big issue real quick. How do you go about selecting what debt you pay off or buy. Im a 5 year mechanical engineer on my 2nd year and Ive been paying for my college in its entirety barely scraping by on the FAFSA loans and in the upcoming semester will have to take out student loans from places such as sallie mae just to be able to pay for food, rent and tuition. I guess my question more clearly is, how do you determine what debt you buy?

Edit: loans→debt

Strike_Debt0 karma

We donlt know in advance whose debt we buy--it gets bundled into large portfolios, and we only learn the identity when we acquire it. Sorry! But, again, the point of the Rolling Jubilee is to spread awareness about how cheaply debt is sold for ie how much it is really worth to the creditor class...

ErdeTyrenne-1 karma

A friend of mine who argues for tuition says that if college were to be free of charge, the quality of professors would decrease. What's a good rebuttal for people who make that claim?

Strike_Debt1 karma

CUNY and the University of California used to be free, they employed some of the best thinkers in the world........