Million Student March Demands Solutions To Crushing College Debt

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Getty Images.
On Thursday, thousands of college students across America did something that college students do very well — protest. The Million Student March was a mass walkout at colleges and universities across the country in protest of ballooning tuitions, insurmountable student loans, and incompatible low wages.

On the website promoting the march, organizers identify themselves as “high school, college, and graduate students, recent graduates, campus workers, former students, parents, and grandparents uniting in a day of action.” Facebook and Twitter exploded with photos and videos of yesterday's demonstration under the hashtag #millionstudentmarch.
The marchers demanded tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, and a $15 minimum wage for campus workers. The protest was aligned with the Fight for Fifteen movement to increase the federal minimum wage. Fight for Fifteen began with urban fast-food employees and has expanded to include all low-wage workers. The student protests were specifically scheduled to occur two days after a Fight for Fifteen strike that took place in multiple cities across the United States.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the average student who graduated in 2015 will owe a little more than $35,000 — and will be more indebted than any graduate in history. Even after adjusting for inflation, that’s twice the amount of debt than a student who graduated in the 1980s carried. The rising costs are not limited to high-cost or for-profit colleges, either. Public institutions, which were once an affordable option for the lower and middle class, have also seen an enormous price spike.

The Washington Post
reports that tuition costs at public universities have risen a frightening 28% since the recession, even after accounting for inflation. At the same time, states — which used to be the primary funder of public colleges and universities — have slashed their contributions, leaving the burden on students.

The unsustainable cost of higher education has been an issue for presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle. All three Democratic candidates have already promised some form of tuition-free higher education, along with ways to ease the burden on those who already owe thousands of dollars.

Bernie Sanders, whose liberal stances helped inspire the protests, has pledged to make tuition free at public colleges and universities, and Hillary Clinton has said that she will increase access to grants and allow students to refinance loans, and make community college free of charge.

Meanwhile, Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush have also outlined their strategies. Rubio has promised to ease the burden on students via income-based repayments and easier applications for federal aid, and Bush proposes to lower the cost of tuition. Even Donald Trump has been on the record in favor of students, saying that the government shouldn't be making any money off its federal loans.

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