Month: January 2012

Aaron Calafato—Student Loan Debt— Responsibility of the Artist…

Aaron Calafato—Student Loan Debt— Responsibility of the Artist…

Thanks for reading.

My story is similar to millions of young American graduates, so I won’t focus on the fact that my wife and I are a combined 120,000 thousand dollars in student debt. I won’t elaborate on the harassment we have both endured from private lenders like Sallie Mae, Great Lakes, and Key Bank.

I won’t argue the fact the middle class is getting taken advantage of by having most of their loans privatized instead of subsidized and that our higher education industry has become a corporate enterprise exhibiting the same characteristics of a greed-driven Wall Street. These contentions already have been articulated by the millions of young professionals waking up to the reality that, “we don’t live in a pay-to-play society anymore, we live in a borrow-to-work society”. I will, however, talk about how my journey as an Actor and Storyteller intersected with the issue of the student loan debt crisis.

After transitioning cities and getting married I felt my acting career was stalling even before it really began. It wasn’t because of my lack of effort, training, and experience in the York market. It was because my Bachelor’s Degree in communications became my financial nightmare instead of a worthwhile investment.

Both my wife and I put our careers and lives on hold to take jobs in retail sales to try and pay off our loan debt. Debt that we accrued because we were led to believe it would give us an even playing field in our professions. It had the opposite effect.

Ironically, I took a job as an admissions adviser at a For-Profit University to keep up with my outrageous monthly student loan payments. The position was my real education on how the corruption of the American higher education system not only affected the students I was advising but my own life. I learned about the nature about For-Profit Schools and how they capitalized on the hopes and dreams of our most vulnerable people in society.

That all Universities were raising their tuition every year while the government continued to allow unemployed college students to take out max-level student loans. How employers worked in concert with the schools and lenders by requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher to perform jobs that barely made a living wage. Finally, how my employer pushed me to perform my job unethically in order to keep it.

I had enough. I’d had enough of being controlled by my own student debt. I was sick that I was making a living putting other young Americans in that same debt. So I chose freedom by using my skills as an actor and storyteller to create a play that would explore the narrative of the student loan debt crisis. 

The play, which took almost 6 months to write, is appropriately titled “For Profit”. With this solo performance, it’s my intention to create awareness and inspire social change in regard to the student debt crisis.

My work as a performing artist stems from the inherent need to communicate with other human beings. In my performances, I focus on the complex exchange of ideas and experiences of everyday American society. Therefore, it is my obligation to tell this story, and instead of continuing to be victimized by this system, to use my abilities to help change it.

Michael Moore — Debtor’s Prison

Michael Moore — Debtor’s Prison

Instead of you going off into the real world, we send you immediately into a debtor’s prison…And at 22 you are in prison. Because now you have $10,000, $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 worth of STUDENT LOAN DEBT that you are going to spend the next 20-30 years paying off! Why would we do this to our children?!? We didn’t have that! Those of you who are in here that are my age and older, what did it cost us to go to school here in Michigan? Let me tell you how we paid- if you didn’t get a scholarship, the way you paid for Michigan State was you worked at Dairy Queen for the summer!

                    -Michael Moore

Please Take the "Young Invincibles" Survey on Student Loan Debt

Please Take the “Young Invincibles” Survey on Student Loan Debt

Dear Friends and Supporters:

Happy 2012!!!  Lots of exciting things on the student loan reform front are in the works for the upcoming year – we’ve already won a few battles over the course of the last 3 years, but the real fight is only just beginning.  With the Presidential and Congressional elections a mere 11 months away, and all of our allies are determined to make student loan debt a major issue of the 2012 campaign and, to do that, as always, we need your help!

Young Invincibles is one such ally engaged in the fight to restore sanity to the way in which we pay for higher education in America.  They are a group that formed in a law school cafeteria in 2009 over concerns that their voices weren’t being heard during the protracted debate over health care reform.  Over the course of the last 2.5 years, they’ve grown to become one of the leading voices in Washington, D.C., representing the interests of 18-34 year olds with respect to public policy.

They’ve put together a brief survey about students’ experiences with student loan debt so as to better serve their constituency – a constituency that has a great deal of overlap with us.  As such, I’m asking everyone to take a few moments of their time to complete this brief survey so as to help our new friends out.  We need all the allies we can muster, and Young Invincibles is a great one to have!

Thank you for your continued support and dedication to the cause!  Let’s build upon our success and make 2012 a watershed year for student loan reform!

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