Credit: Flickr.com/TaxCredits.net

A generation ago, the federal government privatized a student loan system whose mission had been to provide education access to millions of Americans.

As our new investigation shows, it instead created big gains for an elite few.

Today, 42 million people are saddled with student loan debt totaling $1.3 trillion – roughly the equivalent of Mexico’s GDP. And the private industry behind that money is formidable, well-connected and ruthless. Many of its victims share a similar trajectory: They enter college looking for a bit of assistance; they leave buried under a heap of financial obligation, with no relief in sight.

With so many people affected, we wanted to inspire a creative way to highlight all that debt – and to build a conversation that puts it out in the open. Which is why we’re launching a new social media campaign today to hear about your experience.

Using the hashtag #MyDebtCouldBuy on Twitter and Instagram, share something that you could purchase with the money you owe from student loans. Maybe it’s a new car, 2,500 cups of coffee or a even a house. Maybe it’s a jet ski, your own restaurant or a diploma from a different school.

When you post, make sure to include the dollar amount of your debt and a photo of what you’d rather have for all that money. We collected responses below, and we’ll continue to update as new ones roll in:

We’re excited to see what you come up with. We’ll be highlighting your submissions on Reveal’s Twitter and Instagram accounts, and we’ll collect our favorites to include on our website and in our weekly newsletter.

Byard Duncan is a reporter and producer for  engagement and collaborations for Reveal. He manages Reveal’s Reporting Networks, which provide more than 1,000 local journalists across the U.S. with resources and training to continue Reveal investigations in their communities. He also helps lead audience engagement initiatives around Reveal’s stories and assists local reporters in elevating their work to a national platform. In addition to Reveal, Duncan’s work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The California Sunday Magazine and Columbia Journalism Review, among other outlets. He was part of Reveal’s Behind the Smiles project team, which was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2019. He is the recipient of two Edward R. Murrow Awards, a National Headliner Award, an Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, and two first-place awards for feature storytelling from the Society of Professional Journalists and Best of the West. Duncan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.