FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Desperate Students

by Rev. JESSE L. JACKSON

The sign at the Occupy Wall Street demonstration revealed the struggles of America’s young: “A B.A., $30,000 in student debt and no job.” Young people are graduating from college into the worst jobs market since the 1930s while carrying record levels of student debt. The sad truth of Occupy Wall Street is that for many of the young activists, Wall Street occupied them first.

Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago, even adjusting for inflation. Debt has doubled in just five years. Student debt is likely to exceed $1 trillion over the next year.

As states cut back on college support and grants, college tuitions have risen faster than the cost of homes, health care or energy. Americans believe a college education is key to their children’s future, so more and more borrow what they can.

Students are now graduating with average debts of over $24,000. When I speak to families in mining towns in Appalachia, I ask how many have lost a job, how many face foreclosure, how many face costly medical bills. Many hands go up. But when I ask how many worry about student loans, the biggest portion of the audience stands up. It is working families — families stretching to give their children the chance that they never had — who are taking on the greatest debt and are at the greatest risk.

The banking industry has used its clout to make these loans the harshest of all debt. They survive bankruptcy. The lenders have broad collection powers, far greater than with a mortgage or a credit card. They can garnish wages or even Social Security payments. When payments are missed, penalties are brutal. Students who graduate and then lose their job suddenly find themselves owing twice what they signed up for.

The debt constricts normal life events. Students must put off moving out from their parents’ home, buying a car or saving for a home or retirement. They delay getting married or having children.

Defaults have soared. In 2008, more than 238,000 defaulted on their loans. The number of loans that went into forbearance or deferment (when borrowers receive temporary relief from payments) rose to 22 percent in 2007.

President Obama and his wife, Michelle, struggled to pay off student debts long after they graduated. The president increased Pell grants and provided relief that would link government loan payments to income, and provide potential forgiveness for those taking public service jobs. But despite the largest increase of student aid since the GI Bill, the debts keep getting bigger.

The debt not only enslaves the borrowers, it threatens the economy. With millions of young people burdened by debt, demand for apartments, homes, cars and discretionary goods is reduced.

Occupy Wall Street can ask these hard questions:

Banks corrupted Congress with campaign contributions to facilitate their fleecing of the most vulnerable of students with the most onerous of provisions.

Why should big banks be able to get virtually interest-free money from the Federal Reserve, while students are forced to pay far higher interest rates? Why should bankruptcy courts be able to rewrite mortgages on the vacation homes of the wealthy while student loans are untouchable? Students need legislation to allow their loans to be refinanced in bankruptcy court, or forgiven. Why don’t we provide students with the grants or low-cost loans the banks get?

Many young people forgo college. Others drop out, unwilling to rack up debt. If there is anything that is too big and too important to fail, it is our next generation.

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson is founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail