Socialist organizer calls for action on student debt
- Apr. 29, 2012
- 1 Comment
April 25 marked the day where economists predicted student debt would hit $1 trillion, according to Andrew Porter, national organizer of the Young Democratic Socialists group.
Porter said Wednesday night in a speech at the Kansas Union that student debt surpassed credit card debt as the largest debt in the United States. Porter and the Young Democratic Socialists believe the rise in debt has caused access to higher education to be a privilege rather than a right. The event drew a little more than 20 people, but Porter said he felt that his presentation had an impact. He said free higher education is possible it is just whether the government chooses to pay for it.
“The most immediate thing we can do is to work on the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012,” Porter said. “On top of that, we need to be pressing state and national representatives to invest in higher education, so to actually get them to put the funding back into higher education.”
The Student Loan Forgiveness Act would allow forgiveness to borrowers by paying 10 percent of their discretionary income for 10 years as long as income is above the poverty line.
Porter said it would cost the government about $15 billion to pay for everyone’s tuition in college right now, and it would cost $80 billion if everyone who was eligible for college attended.
Free higher education would be possible, Porter said, through a 2 percent military budget cut. However, he said, more students need to be aware of how high student debt is because they are the ones that can make free higher education possible.
“Students need to be out on the street. We need to show that students care about this issue,” Porter said. “We need to build movements to get to the point where there are enough people on the streets to see this is a real problem. In the same way Occupy allowed us to shift the conversation away from budget deficits toward income inequality, student movement will allow us to show that funding is the real problem.”
Jackie Sewell, President of KU Young Democrat Socialists and event organizer, said he thinks free higher education is feasible, but it is still a work in progress.
“It’s not going to happen overnight,” Sewell said. “It takes a lot of time for a campaign like this to reach a lot of people. It will take a combination of more teach ins, more events like this and reaching people on an individual level, whether in the classroom, through tabling or on campus.”
Matt Soener, a senior from Overland Park, said he was particularly motivated by Porter’s presentation.
“Even though the turnout wasn’t great, funding for higher education is something all students should be active in,” Soener said. “If students can’t get politically active in this issue where it affects all of us then, there has to be changes and we need to do a better job of raising awareness.”
Edited by Christine Curtin