Could the Occupy Wall Street movement really be about student loans?

Putting the ‘owe’ in occupy

Putting the ‘owe’ in occupy

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Could the Occupy Wall Street movement really be about student loans? The protests have spun off a Tumblr blog called “We Are the 99 Percent,” where ordinary people submit photos of themselves holding up their stories (written or printed on old-fashioned paper). And many of the stories are about young people drowning in college loans. “I have $29,685 in student loans. I worry I will never be out of debt,” writes one graduate. “I am hounded daily by the loan company demanding payment,” writes another.

Some pundits who initially dismissed Occupy Wall Street as an unfocused hippie gathering have had their minds changed by the blog. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein wrote that after reading We Are the 99 Percent, he realized that “college debt represents a special sort of betrayal” for the protesters, who were promised that education was the way to get ahead. The fact that the government paid off Wall Street’s debts but not theirs may also have something to do with the anger. As one debt-ridden 99 percenter put it, “I understand that I made the choices that got me here. However, my choices were led by the failed institutions that make up this nation.”


Could the Occupy Wall Street movement really be about student loans?

  1. $29,000 that is a deal for most college graduates…that is manageable! Most of these graduates have devastating debt like $80,000-$120,000 and colleges get to hid this fact! Why because they are only forced to disclose the student’s FEDERAL debt which is only a portion of the debt. So they leave out the Federal Parent PLUS loan and Private loan debt. 

    When they went on their college tours 5 years ago the college said, “our average student debt is $19,000”. It’s the new college Math 4 x $52,000 = $19,000 in academia land??? 

    So who is to blame? I think it is a combination. The Parent’s get what is called “bumper sticker syndrom” (coined by COACH2college) and they want to put XYZ University on the back of their SUV. Theses student are told you must have an education at all costs! The college plays smoke and mirrors with the value of the education (especially some majors) and the debt they will acquire. The student in the ends buy into the dream and signs on the dotted line.

    This is a shared disaster: the college, the parent, the student. so maybe they each get 1/3 of the collective debt? 

    • You miss the point.

      If you don’t have a job, you have no way of paying off *any* amount of debt. What I’ve read suggests that recent graduates are in the age group (18-30 or so) that has been getting hit the hardest by layoffs.

      Not only does being unemployed make it impossible to pay off loans now, but it has a huge impact on future earnings potential. Someone who has been unemployed for a year will make less than a recent grad with the same degree, and this gap remains over their time in the workforce. So, not only are unemployed university grads with debt screwed because they can’t pay now, but they are less able than they’d other be to be able to pay off the debt later.

      This is a huge problem for a pretty large segment of the population in the US. As the blog posting points out, the government bailed out the banks and other corporations, they’ve done nothing for unemployed university grads. The rich gets saved, grads get screwed.

      A university education is one of the few available paths to upward social mobility. You’d blame parents for wanting better for their kids? You’d blame kids for wanting to make something of themselves? You’d blame colleges for wanting to take people in?

  2. The title should be “Could the Occupy Wall St. Movement really be about middle-class children who were stupid enough to borrow 30k for a liberal arts degree which is by now universally acknowledged to provide zero job prospects at graduation?”.

    I say this as a PhD student in the humanities; at no point in my education was I under the illusion that my degree(s) would qualify me for anything more than a teaching job in academe. One can choose to borrow as much as one likes, and choose to apply it to training in the field of one’s choosing. This is at the root of the current belly-aching: young people who cannot handle the burden and consquence of personal choice. In this sense, the present ‘movement’ simply reads as the collective whining of a generation that can’t effectively handle it’s freedom to choose. If you choose to spend your loan on a degree in a field with few job prospects and an oversupply of labour, that’s your own damn fault. It’s not like one can’t determine this beforehand.

    One suspects that deep down, these upper-middle class hipster kids are simply pining for a more authouritarian political system in which the burden of choice is removed. Witness the over-representation of extreme socialists, and the calls for state intervention.

    • Your point about the burden of choice is ironic, considering the number of banks that made horrible decisions they didn’t have to pay for since they were bailed out by the government.

      Instead of directing your derision at a target which has actually demonstrated the qualities you complain about, you choose to make up a story about hipsters. Do the undergrads you teach annoy you that much?

  3. No, it’s not about student loans.

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