NYU's Andrew Ross Tackles Student Loans at Occupy Wall Street


Tomorrow at Occupy Wall Street’s home base at Zuccotti Park, Andrew Ross, professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University, will spearhead the discussion of one of the pillar’s of the movement’s protest: student loan reform.

Ross will discuss at the topic at a rally by posing the question, “Is student debt a form of indenture?”

For OWS’ young protesters, matters concerning rising tuition costs and student loans have been among the top of their demands since the start of the movement. Student loan debt surpassed credit card debt in 2010, the bubble now amounting to over $1.17 trillion. As many lenders have tightened their belts during this financial crisis, student loan debt has grown 25% since 2008, according to FindAid.org. When that is coupled with the unemployment that awaits our current graduates, it is no wonder that student debt is on the forefront of concerns for OWS. The movement is right to make this the focal point of their protests, since rising student loans and unemployment have left many recent grads scrambling to make ends meet in order to pay the debilitating bills amassed from their college tuition.

On this topic, Ross may be the best person for the job. In his book Nice Work If You Can Get It, Ross examines the landscape of the global workplace, and the instability that is found in the current economic landscape.

Based on Consumer Price Index data, the cost of tuition and fees has more than doubled since 2000 and has outpaced inflation across all goods, health care, housing, and energy. According to a Moody’s report, “fears of an education bubble are not without merit,” as students continue to pursue higher education to postpone the staggering unemployment and underemployment that awaits them after graduation.

Students have continued to pursue forms of higher education in hopes of landing a better job after graduation. Students are saddled with more and more debt amassed in pursuit of these degrees, especially as they cannot quickly find a job to help start the debt pay-off process. Weighing the costs and benefits of this loan conundrum could leave even the most learned financial guru in the dark.

The uncertainty upon finding work post-graduation is a shocking but true reality for all young graduates today. According to the Huffington Post, unemployment amongst graduates under the age of 24 has amounted to 15% in early 2011. That, with the average $27,800 of debt that each student is saddled with after graduation, has left many in the dark on how to dig out of the proverbial hole that has been dug for them, as noted by FindAid.org.

The historic inequality in our country lends itself to this problem, perfectly tying student debt in with the other demands of OWS. It is no wonder that many succumb to taking a menial, soul-sucking job that pays peanuts in order to pay the debilitating student loans that they had amassed over their past four years of school. Occupy Wall Street poses the question "Is student debt a form of servitude?" I’d bet on it.

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