COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) — A petition wanting President Trump to cancel federal student loan debt via executive order has gained more than a half-million signatures since its inception, earlier this year.
Student loan debt now sits at about $1.6 trillion nationwide, with about 44 million Americans owing some amount of money.
"This is a failed lending system and, at this point, it’s a national threat economically," Alan Collinge, creator of the petition and founder of the grassroots group Student Loan Justice. "The fact of the matter is the President holds all the executive authority he needs."
Collinge and other student debt advocates say the Higher Education Act gives the President the power to manage federal student loans, making it one of the most direct universal approaches to cancellation. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) proposed a similar move within her platform, during her presidential run.
Collinge says the pandemic has only exacerbated people's want for relief.
"All of our signatures have come in within the past few months, most of them within the past month and a half or so," he said.
Ohioan Gregory Reedy is one of them. "It is affecting us in the sense of the insecurity," he said.
Reedy tells us his original $40,000 student loans have now nearly doubled over the past decade, thanks to interest.
"For anyone that’s just barely working making ends meet, it's very hard to make what can be upwards of close to a mortgage payment on top of rent or mortgage or car payments and insurance, he said.
Federal data shows Ohioans hold $60 billion in student loan debt, making it the 8th highest amount in the country, with about 1.8 million people owing. Reedy says he and his wife have been able to keep their jobs amid the pandemic, which has helped, but knows others aren't so lucky.
"When you have millions of people signing on to a document saying yes, this is important to me, this is an issue that’s important and it needs to change, politicians will listen," he said. "It’s not a partisan issue and it shouldn't be."
With more signatures by the minute, both Collinge and Reedy hope politicians on all sides are listening.
Collinge says if forgiveness is not an option on the table, the group will also push for changes to bankruptcy laws, to allow for student loans to be included.