The Occupy movement has focused a lot on debt, having created organizations like Rolling Jubilee, which buys health care and student debt (about $32 million so far, according to its website), and the Debt Collective, which helped organize the Corinthian student-loan protests.
The reason for the debt focus, Ross says, is because an education is the best way to improve a person's standing in life, yet the U.S. educational system is widening gaps of inequality. "It's been turned into the cruelest of debt trap," Ross says, "where students from only the most well-heeled families can escape."
Student Debt Crisis is another organization that focuses on student debt. And while it supported the Corinthian 100, Executive Director Natalia Abrams doesn't ask people to default. What the group has done is propose two federal bills in 2012 and 2013 that would have repurposed money from corporate welfare to help pay off student debt, a move the group believes would have stimulated the economy from the bottom up.
More than 1.2 million people signed a petition in support, but both bills fell short in Congress. Abrams advises against voluntary default because "it's just so detrimental, I can't in good faith ask people to do that."
Student loans are different than almost any other type of debt. Adam Minsky, a lawyer who specializes in student loans, says the government doesn't even have to take a debtor to court. Without a court order, the government can garnish wages (typically around 15 percent of income), and withhold any federal stream of money, like tax refunds and Social Security.
"They can literally pursue you until you die," Minsky says.
In nearly two dozen states, defaulters can have their professional licenses revoked. In a few, they can even lose their driver's licenses. With all this, plus back interest, students who default will likely end up paying much more than they originally borrowed. In addition, defaulting can ruin someone's credit.
"Credit companies don't care if you didn't pay the loan because you were deadbeat or making a protest," says David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institute.
What hasn't been talked about much, however, is the potential impact on the economy if such a movement were to actually gain popularity.
The average college senior who graduated from a public or private nonprofit college in 2013 owed $28,400, according to a report by The Institute for College Access & Success.
Some simple math would lead one to conclude that if 1 million people were to default, this would mean a $28 billion bargaining chip for "conscientious student-loan defaulters."
"You really have to break that up in two different parts," says Douglas Webber, an associate professor of economics at Temple University. "There are government-backed student loans and private student loans, and it's very easy to predict what will happen in the private market."