Should the Nation ‘Occupy’ Higher Education?

Many students are now deciding to go onto graduate school to avoid the economic downturn. Christopher Guizlo is one of them, and he will be graduating with a master’s degree in public communications and a student loan debt of around $40,000. And like many of his generation, he will be entering a job market that is looking as bleak as ever.

“Like many others around the nation, my parents saved up money and pushed me to go to college,” writes Guizlo at the Washington Post.

“But, like many others, we didn’t save enough to make it through all four years of undergrad and my one-year graduate program. My parents knew we would have to borrow money to do so, but they did not want anything to stop me from going to my dream school.”

Guizlo is not alone. The “We are the 99 percent” Tumblr account features countless stories of frustration with the economic problems our country is going through. A dominating theme is people who graduated from college with huge amounts of debt and are having trouble paying back their student loans while trying to make ends meet.

“Maybe it’s time to Occupy Higher Education,” writes Guizlo.

The average student who graduated in 2007-8 had $23,186 in student loan debt, and the total amount of outstanding student loans is expected to surpass $1 trillion this year.

“This is not the future that college graduates were promised. And it’s time for Congress, the Department of Education and higher education officials to find a solution.”

Guizlo doesn’t believe that this solution should involve making school free for all or simply forgiving all student debt. Instead,  he is after jobs and incentive programs that encourage college graduates to pursue careers in areas that will jumpstart the economy.

“This is the perfect opportunity for the government, universities and businesses big and small to work together to place college graduates into needed areas.”

There’s also a call for more education and information about the actual, real costs of a college degree and what possible alternatives there are to loans. Just as parents and high school teachers lecture students about how to get their first credit card, they also need to educate them on the fine print on student loans.

Students need to know that their loans will come due someday, writes Guizlo. “And they will be responsible for the tab eventually.”