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joinStampede tackles student debt crisis

(MoneyWatch) Americans continue to rack up student debt, which is now approaching $1 trillion, at an alarming rate.

According to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, student loans are the only kind of household debt that continued to rise during the latest recession and now ranks behind only mortgage debt in dollar terms. Between 2004 and 2012, the number of borrowers for student loans and the average balances each rose by 70 percent.

To date, Congress has yet to offer any real relief to families and students, let alone sound the alarm about what looks increasingly like a debt bubble forming on the surface of the economy. But the inaction of policy makers is spurring other kinds of aid. Today sees the launch of joinStampede, an ambitious campaign to use crowdsourcing to help borrowers obtain more favorable college loans through sheer numbers.

JoinStampede's goal is to mobilize at least 100,000 Americans with student loan debt and then use that collective power to negotiate on their behalf to obtain better interest rates.

Borrowers have until April 4 to sign up. Between April 5 and April 17, joinStampede will seek to negotiate with lenders on behalf of its members. The website expects to negotiate an exclusive rebate or interest rate reduction with a student loan refinance provider.

To join, the campaign only asks for members to register with an email address. There is no obligation to accept any loan offers the website might obtain.

What joinStampede hopes to do is create a consumer movement based on the belief that when people band together, their collective voice has the potential to change the dynamics of the marketplace. According to Stephen Dash, the organization's founder, "joinStampede was founded on the belief that organizing consumers around technology is an extremely powerful tool for affecting real change in markets, especially where complex products exist and large suppliers dominate."

The national campaign has partnered with Causes, which is the largest online social good campaign platform.

With Congress so far unwilling to tackle the student debt crisis, it will be interesting to see if crowdsourcing can provide some relief.