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Explore the Surprising Faces of Debt In America

The Debt Project, a new series by photographer Brittany M. Powell, illuminates the real people behind the numbers.

Brittany Powell, The Debt Project

Hundreds of millions of Americans currently shoulder staggering debt that threatens to spiral them into financial insecurity. According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve, 1 in 50 households carry more than $20,000 in credit card debt, with the U.S. population as a whole owing more than 2.4 trillion. Of that inconceivable amount, $60 billion is from credit cards, at an average of $7,327 per household. This is not a faceless statistic. Many workers, still recovering from the seismic shock of the Great Recession, give over a sizable portion of their paycheck each month to cover these debts. In a shocking study commissioned by ProPublica and ADP, it was reported, “more than one in 10 employees in the prime working ages of 35 to 44 had their wages garnished in 2013.” Debt, the elephant in the room, is an insidious and often invisible force. Whether it’s from student loans, medical bills, credit cards, or real estate, the burden can feel so substantial that it almost seems like a physical presence in our lives. The Debt Project, a photo series by San Francisco-based photographer Brittany M. Powell, hopes to illuminate what debt really looks like by peering into the surroundings of those living beneath its weight. The result is a group of intimate photos, still under development, that show the real and often banal face of financial hardship.

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Obama Wants to Give You Two Years of Community College On the House

The President annnounced his new proposal to help students pay for college.

The tab on our national student loan debt runs at $1.2 trillion. It’s hard to even conceptualize how much money that is. But if anything symbolizes how irreparably broken our educational system is, it’s that amount: $1.2 trillion. U.S. leaders will be dealing with this problem for at least a couple generations but President Obama has just announced a proposal that might be the first step towards a solution: making the first two years of community college free. President Obama made the announcement via a video posted to his Facebook page on Thursday.

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Interactive Infographic: Student Debt in America

Studies show that a postsecondary degree has a big impact on career prospects, but for students amassing huge debt, is their education paying off?

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For Many California Students, Harvard Is Now Cheaper Than State Schools

A 300 percent increase in tuition and lackluster financial aid from state schools is making elite private universities look more appealing.


Thanks to a 300 percent increase in tuition over the past decade, California college students have a tradition of protesting education budgets—in recent years they've marched on freeways and held sit-ins on campus. Faced with a proposed 21 percent tuition increase for the next school year, tens of thousands of angry students marched on the state capitol on Monday to demand that lawmakers fully fund higher education.

As the state has cut billions of dollars from education budgets over the past few years, California's universities have begun admitting more out-of-state students, who pay triple the tuition. And like many other states, they've shifted a larger burden of the operating costs on to students. That means that increasing numbers of low-income and middle-class students are being priced out of state school.

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A Student Proposal Could Make a University of California Education Affordable Once Again

Students would be required to pay back 5 percent of their income for 20 years.


Back in the golden days of the 1960s and 1970s, students could attend one of the 10 University of California campuses for almost nothing. They graduated without crippling debt, enabling them to buy homes, start families, and live the California dream.

Today, the system is balancing its budgets on out-of-state tuition dollars, and students are so angry about the spiraling cost of attending a UC school that they've marched on freeways and occupied meetings of the Board of Regents. But one group of students, Fix UC, is moving beyond protest signs, presenting a plan to the Regents that might help solve the Golden State's higher-education fiscal crisis.

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Occupy Colleges Movement Sparks Protests on 150 Campuses

Protesting corporate greed and sky-high tuition, students at over 150 schools marched on Thursday.


In one of the most widespread campus protests in recent memory, students at 150 colleges and universities across the country rallied in front of student unions and administration buildings Thursday as part of the Occupy Colleges movement. The demonstrations were inspired by and supportive of the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests, but students are also speaking out against the high cost of college and the lack of opportunities for graduates.

"Around the country, more and more high school students are foregoing a college education because their families can no longer afford it," Occupy Colleges organizers wrote on the group's Facebook page. "So many more are graduating with inconceivable amounts of debt and stepping into the worst job market in decades. They take unpaid internships that go nowhere and soon can’t pay college loans."

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