Unlike carrying a massive credit card balance, student loans have long been considered “good debt.” Students have been told that to get a good job, they need to pay thousands for a college degree.
When graduation day passes without a decent job offer, frustration builds. It continues building as recent grads move back in with their parents, work unpaid internships, settle for a job they might have gotten without a degree — and continue to pay their student loan bills each month.
That frustration is often at the heart of Occupy Wall Street protests in New York’s financial districts and cities across the country. Although the leaderless revolution does not have any stated objectives, many participants are calling for student loan forgiveness.
Last week, students were encouraged to walk out of their classes and organize rallies. A proposed list of demands written by a protester and posted on occupywallst.org calls for free college education and “immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all.”
Student loans are mentioned over and over in handwritten stories posted on the Tumblr account “We are the 99 Percent.” One student wrote: “When I graduate I will have (over) $100K in student loans, as will much of my generation.” Another wrote: “I am a freshman in college with 12k+ in student loan debts ALREADY.” A man wrote: “I am 42 years old...I owe $40,000 in student loans.”
Student loan debt typically follows you forever, even if you file for bankruptcy. Debt can make it difficult for grads to enroll in graduate school or pursue a public service career , according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org.
Two-thirds of the Class of 2008, graduated with debt and an average of $24,651 in student loans. Since then, graduates have faced some of the worst job markets in recent history. In August 2010, the amount of student loan debt ($829.785 billion) outpaced credit card debt ($826.5 billion) for the first time.
Frustration with student loans and calls for help continued on Twitter:
Meanwhile, critics of the protests are using Twitter to question why college students and recent grads are gathering around an attack on Wall Street when college administrators were the ones who set their tuition rates. Others say forgiving student loans in any way would be unfair to those who did not take on debt to get a degree. (There are also a lot of attacks on students who decided to major in things like sociology, English or women’s studies.)