Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

5 of 11
BACKNEXT
Hero: Alan Collinge
Founder, StudentLoanJustice.org

"Student loans have become the most profitable, uncompetitive and oppressive type of debt in our nation's history." -- CNNMoney.com, Dec. 12, 2008

Five million federal student loans are currently in default, which adds up to about $38 billion in bad debt. Collinge has spent years fighting for college graduates, as well as dropouts, who are in trouble with these loans.

What's frightening about the situation, he says, is that lenders have all the power: "Student loans have become the most profitable, uncompetitive and oppressive type of debt in our nation's history." He points out that Congress long ago eliminated standard consumer protections for borrowers. A family struggling with mortgage or credit card payments enjoys far more rights than a recent grad who helped pay for his anthropology degree with student loans. (He gives details in his upcoming book The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History--and How We Can Fight Back.)

Working out of his cramped apartment in Tacoma, Wash. - for no pay - he has watched membership in his grass-roots organization grow to about 4,000 people. In 2009, he hopes to start a counseling/advocacy service for desperate borrowers and to continue fighting for a federal student borrower bill of rights. --L.O.

NEXT: Hero: Nouriel Roubini
Last updated December 12 2008: 6:01 AM ET
More Galleries
The 10 best states for retirees It might be worth moving to a new place to find your dream retirement home. Check out these 10 states. More
A look at Sears through the years Now Sears has officially said its business has an uncertain future, here's a look at photographs that documents the store's rich history. More
Coolest hotel bars for business travelers in 2017 CNNMoney asked a high-end concierge service for routine business travelers what hotel bars they'd recommend in 4 major U.S. cities. Here are the best spots. More

Special Offer