“After spending some time working with death row inmates in Alabama and San Quentin State Prison, I wanted to expand my law horizons and transition into civil public interest litigation. I ended up in an amazing position at the New York Legal Assistance Group in their impact litigation unit, and was able to work with many clients dealing with various issues around economic justice. I really enjoyed the work and felt I had found the perfect intersect of law and its effects on the lives of people in a real way.
During my fellowship, I was starting to see a growing number of people coming to our office with overwhelming student loan debt. At the same time, on the way to and from work on the subway, I would look up and see ads everywhere for for-profit schools; there was something huge there, right in front of my eyes. In the following years, our office investigated and pursued several class actions against for-profit schools scheming their students out of money.
I get really fired up about this. There’s something particularly egregious about student loan debt to me because people have a right to learn. They get an education to be better citizens, community members, and providers for their families but we ask them to go into debt just to get basic skills they need to be competitive in the labor market. I think this is incredibly unfair.
This debt doesn’t only affect the student; it affects their families and their economic stability well into the future. It affects their ability to provide for their children, pay the mortgage, rent an apartment, or plan for retirement. Their children suffer when they have to use their tax refunds to pay off these loans, instead of using it toward important household expenses. It’s a cascade of economic instability and indifference in the system. That’s why I continue to pursue justice in student loan reform for the Project on Predatory Student Lending.
To me, an education is really not much of a choice anymore; it’s a fundamental cornerstone to a successful future. Therefore, it’s really a collective responsibility to disrupt debt-financed education. The end beneficiary of investment in education is not only the individual, it’s our democracy. It’s uncomfortable to talk about education as a consumer product, but we can apply the tools of consumer law to protect and enhance the right to an education, too. I try to teach the students in our legal clinic this point of view. They too are in school to learn, to provide, and to succeed. I want them to see this commonality with their clients, and confront the system, because they are a part of it too.”