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ABOUT : Student Debt Crisis


Small is a non-profit organization dedicated to fundamental reforms to the way in which higher education is paid for in America.

Central to our mission is a belief that a well-educated citizenry is essential to our prosperity as a nation in the new, 21st Century economy.

Quality education is the key to our ability to compete and succeed on a global scale and, to the extent we burden our workforce with enormous debts to obtain the knowledge and skills they need to excel, we limit not only our future economic choices, but our freedom in general. 

The future economic success of our nation is wholly dependent upon a workforce with the critical thinking skills necessary for innovation, entrepreneurship and prosperity and it is SDC’s core belief that, in order to unleash the full potential of those skills, we can no longer burden students with the ever-increasing costs of an education that benefits society in general, not just the students receiving them.
Robert Applebaum Robert Applebaum is an attorney from Staten Island, NY and the founder of’s predecessor organization,  Rob is a 1998 graduate of Fordham University School of Law and, thereafter, he served as an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn, N.Y. between 1999 and 2004. After 5 years of service as an ADA, because of his exponentially increasing student loan debt, Applebaum made the unfortunate decision to leave a public service job he loved for the private sector, where he remained for the next 5 years.

In late January, 2009, frustrated with countless bailouts of the very institutions responsible for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, news of lavish vacations, exorbitant bonuses and office redecorations, Robert Applebaum authored an essay entitled “Forgive Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy” which he posted to a new Facebook Group by the same name.  Due to the overwhelming popularity of the Facebook group, Rob founded so as to advocate for both current and former students struggling under massive amounts of student loan debt.

Applebaum’s petition on the White House’s “We the People” site, which garnered over 32,000 signatures, resulted in a direct response from the Obama Administration, culminating in their introduction of the “Pay As You Earn” initiative in October, 2011.

Rob’s petition on, in favor of H.R. 4170, The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, garnered over One Million signatures and, on June 28, 2012, he presented his petition to Rep. Hansen Clarke, author of H.R. 4170, at a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Robert Applebaum has written on the topic of student loan debt for The New York Times,, The Guardian and The Hill.

He has been featured in BusinessWeek, The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Now on PBS, Nightly Business Report, RT America, PBS NewsHour and Default: The Student Loan Documentary. Follow him on twitter @bobbyapples.

Natalia Abrams Natalia Abrams is an educational advocate working toward solutions to provide accessible, quality, affordable education for all students. Natalia’s first engagement with activism was protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

She continued her passion by majoring in Women’s Studies at UCLA (Summa Cum Laude) where she was a student intern at the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) and Vice President of the UCLA FMF chapter.

Upon graduating UCLA in 2009, amid an economic crisis, the issues of education and student debt became the forefront of Natalia’s advocacy. Since 2011, Natalia has been an advocate for the national student debt movement..

In 2011, she started Occupy Colleges as a response to the economic injustices students were dealing with from high tuition increases and lack of financial aid.  During her tenure at Occupy Colleges, Natalia organized one of the largest college protest since the 1970’s.

In 2012, Natalia helped form
While serving as one of the media representatives of, Natalia wrote for the Student Nation and Huffington Post College, appeared on The Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC, CBS Sunday Morning, RT America, Al Jazeera English, Huffpost Live and Free Speech TV. In addition, Natalia has been quoted in the New York Times, Huffington Post, The Nation, NPR, Reuters, AP, Nation of Change, among many other media sources.

Natalia is passionate about engaging with college students, education debtors and tackling the multi-faceted issue of student debt.  She currently serves as the Executive Director of

– Follow her on twitter @nataliaabrams.

Kyle McCarthy Kyle McCarthy, Kyle serves as a “people mobilizer” by utilizing social media to achieve measurable results for small businesses, nonprofits, and social change organizations. He is also the co-founder, a non-profit organization dedicated to fundamental reforms to the way in which higher education is paid for in America.

For his work on student loan reform, Kyle was recently named a Democracy for America Netroots Scholar and was listed as one of “Ten Leaders Fighting for Student Loan Reform.” His writing on this topic has appeared in Huffington Post, The Nation, Buzzfeed, Yahoo News!, PolicyMic, IPF and more.

Before working with, Kyle worked on student loan reform with a number of organizations and projects, including Default: The Student Loan Documentary,, Backbone Campaign, and started

As the director of community outreach for the film, Default, he led a grassroots campaign around the film, organizing over 200 pre-screening partnerships with campus and community groups,and had the film covered by hundreds of media outlets which led to the film being aired nationwide.

While working for, Kyle served as an online organizer focussing specifically on student debt and identifying individuals with compelling stories that could gain media attention and translate into winning campaigns. Notable campaigns include Stef Gray’s, Tell Sallie Mae: Stop the Unemployment Penalty , as well as Ryan Bryski’s, Key Bank: Stop forcing my family to pay my dead brother’s student loans, which ultimately led to Key Bank forgiving his brother’s student loans.

As a fellow with the Backbone Campaign, Kyle participated and helped organize direct action campaigns around student debt. Kyle received his B.S. in business and marketing from Mount Saint Mary’s University and his M.A. from the University of San Francisco where his thesis focused on digital marketing and the millennial generation. Connect with Kyle on Twitter @KyleMcCarthyism.

Aaron Calafato Aaron Calafato, Aaron is a professional actor and storyteller.  His work specifically deals with using performance and storytelling as a social tool to instigate conversation, civil discourse, and social change.

He is a recent recipient of a 2012 Emerging Artist Grant from The Puffin Foundation and  is currently touring his solo-piece FOR PROFIT as seen in:

The Chronicle , Campus Progress, NPR,  WEWS ABC Channel 5 , The Fiscal Times, TheHill and Washington Monthly

Follow him on twitter @AaronCalafato 

Jacob Willman, Video Editor | Steve Abrams, Webmaster/ IT