By: Ashlee Schmidt
My name is Ashlee, and I attended Everest College in Florida. Everest is a branch of Corinthian, a network of for-profit colleges that went bankrupt earlier this year. A few months ago, I joined a debt strike against Corinthian and the Department of Education. I'm one of the original strikers, known as the "Corinthian 15."
I joined the strike right away because I was tired of all the calls from lenders harassing me to pay my loans even though I couldn't find a job. I called a Debt Collective organizer who explained that students were fighting back against Corinthian and the Department of Education. I said that I would love to join. The next thing I knew, I was on a plane to San Francisco to meet a group of people, both former Corinthian students and Debt Collective organizers, who were planning to fight back.
Now I know someone is probably thinking flying across the country to join a debt strike team was a crazy thing to do. But I trusted my gut and just went for it. I had a feeling that I wasn't the only one defrauded by Corinthian, Inc. I was right. Thousands of others are in the same boat, including students who attended Everest, Wyotech, and Heald colleges. I also learned there are other for-profit colleges such as ITT Tech that have stolen people's futures.
I wanted to be one of the Corinthian15 because I want others out there to know that they are not alone in this fight. There are thousands of us who need support. If you're scared to join, please know that you aren't alone. Sometimes it's okay to jump head first into something because you can learn a lot from others who been dealing with the same issues.
Joining this group of fighters – there are now more than Corinthian 100 strikers – has showed me that there are people out there willing to offer a helping hand and support others.
I also joined the strike team to show the world that it isn't okay to let a big company or the Department of Education bully us around. It's not okay to take advantage of people and get away with it. I joined the strike because organizers were there to give a helping hand and I want to help do the same for others.
Where did I find the courage to stand up to Corinthian and the DOE? I have always been the type to step up for what is right. Finding out what these schools did to thousands of students like myself lit a fire in me. I went to college to get an education and to find a better paying career. The plan backfired. After being harassed by the loan companies and feeling the frustration and pain of not finding a job, I decided to swallow my fears and help others like myself. I know there will be roadblocks along the way. Everyone has fears, and I am no different. But I believe that each of us has the courage to step up and fight for what is right.
I see Corinthian and the DOE as the biggest bullies out there because they took advantage of so many students and their families. If it's one thing I absolutely hate, it is being bullied and seeing others bullied. Fighting for what is right means showing the bullies that they can't hurt us anymore. The strike team is not backing down. To all the other students who were defrauded by their schools and are in more debt than they can ever repay, we are fighting with you for debt cancellation and free education for all. Join us.