5 of 11
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
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More

Special Offer

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.