Occupy Student Debt Protests
Students across the nation are frustrated with the large amount of debt they are left with after graduating from college. They see it as a major impediment to success in life as they seek employment with the weight of a huge debt on their shoulders. In the state of New York, students have decided to do something about the unfairness of excessive student loans by staging a protest as a part of the Occupy Wall Street campaign. Whether or not they will achieve the desired results in the long run is yet to be seen.
Student debtors have reached a breaking point in their debt situation and are simply ready for a change. In New York, students and faculty alike have banded together to create a protest entitled The Occupy Student Debt Campaign. This campaign is a faction of the Occupy Wall Street organization and took place in lower Manhattan inside of Zucotti Park. The primary organizers consisted of students from various schools as well as faculty from New York University, Syracuse University and many others. Their primary goal was to bring attention to the student loan debt situation and garner enough support to result in all student loans becoming ‘forgiven debt.’
The main organizers of the Occupy Student debt campaign created a petition called the student debt refusal pledge. Signers of this pledge would agree to default on their existing student loans as a sign of protest towards the student loan industry. The organizers were hoping for at least a million signatures to support their cause. The truth is that student loan debt has become almost unbearable for many students and parents alike and people are looking for a way out. Andrew Ross, an NYU professor echoed these sentiments, he stated that “Since the first days of the Occupy movement, the agony of student debt has been a constant refrain…we’ve heard the harrowing personal testimony about the suffering and humiliation of people who believe their debts will be unpayable in their lifetime.”
Despite the large number of attendees that’s showed up to the protest and the large faculty support behind the movement, experts are saying that defaulting on student loan debt may not be the wisest way to stage a protest. According to Anya Kamenetz, author of the book “Generation Debt” and “The Edupunk’s Guide, “As an organizing tactic, mass default is a little bit difficult to get mainstream America to embrace, since there’s this very strong moral and ethical belief that people don’t walk away from loans they voluntarily assumed.” Kamenetz went on to say that “There’s this deep pervading sense that since I had to pay off my loans, you should have to pay off your loans too.”
Whether or not the campaign is successful, the protest itself is a symbol that students have reached a breaking point and are simply exasperated with the current state of things. The campaign will hopefully bring attention to a debt situation that financial analysts are predicting will be the next financial breakdown similar to the mortgage crisis. At the very least, the protestors hope to bring attention to the rising cost of college and the ratio of increasing student debt.