Students fed up with debt

By Melissa Danzo

Earlier this year, Parliament called for an increase in tuition of universities in the UK. Students were so outraged they took to the streets, setting off flares, throwing eggs and shattering windows around London. When Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, drove through a group of protesters, the protesters chanted “off with their heads!” and attacked the cars of the Royals along with every car in their party.

With tuition debts in the United States at an all-time high, American students have taken to the streets as well.

According to a study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (NCPPHE), between 1999 and 2009, the tuition for public two-year colleges in the United States has increased by 71 percent, while the median family income has decreased 4.9 percent. Students in the U.S. are not resorting to violence, but they are occupying their cities and calling for change.

As the price of higher education increases, students are becoming more and more discouraged with the system.

“Part of [the protests] has to do with the incredible amount of debt and how few jobs are out there,” Dr. Jeffrey Juris, assistant professor of anthropology said. “This really directly impacts your lives.”

The current job market does appear to be bleak. The rate of young people employed this past July – 48.8 percent – marks the lowest July rate on record, which is normally the peak of youth summer employment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which began gather such data in 1948.

“It must be terrifying to look out at the job world,” Dr. Denise Horn, professor of international affairs and political science said.

Professor Horn believes that students are a key factor in the Occupy movement because students want to make a difference in the world they are living in.

Ian Cardoni, a senior theatre major at Emerson College and self-declared liberal, sees the problem as going hand-in-hand with the shrinking middle class. He said that more and more people are being given a chance to go to college, but are later faced with the consequence: debt.

According to The New York Times, in 2009 the average debt of graduates rose by $24,000, up six percent from 2008.

This debt was a tipping point for the organizers of Occupy Boston.

“Student debt used to keep students from protesting,” Andrea Hill, a graduate student and professor of sociology said. “It was always hanging over your head.”

Hill said that when the usual option of getting a good job and paying off a debt is no longer possible, protesting is an option.

Many students around Boston are taking advantage of the attention Occupy Boston is receiving to get their voices heard.

Tu Phan, a junior anthropology major, has attended both Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Boston.

“The spirit is better [in Boston],” Phan said. “The group is small enough to know what they want.”

Brian McCormack, a senior studying social movements and student organizer, took another view.

“We have no demands, we only recognize that the system is broken,” he said.

Even for those who don’t agree with the protesters or do not want to protest, Horn encourages all students to experience the atmosphere that has been created at Dewey Square.

“Talk to your fellow students about what’s going on,” he said. “I’m hoping for a reawakening of civil discourse and democratization.”