Student loan debt leaves some feeling helpless


Protesters at many of the Occupy Wall Street rallies seem to share a common message: We are in debt up to our eyeballs with no way out.

For many protesters, debt is college-related, and with a lagging job market many in the movement are defaulting on their student loans.

A default occurs when a student has not met his or her legal obligations, according to the student loan contract.

According to, two-thirds of recent bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with an average of $25,000 in student loans. On average, students take 16 to 18 years to repay this debt.

According to the Department of Education, 10 percent of federal student loan borrowers defaulted during the past two years, up from 7 percent in 2008.

Justin Bauer, a pre-dental student from El Paso, Texas, said students shouldn’t take out loans before careful thought and consideration.

“I used some student loans to pay for part of my education,” Bauer said. “Personally, I am not afraid of student loans, but I could see why student loans would scare some students. [My wife and I] do worry about not being able to pay back our student loans, but we work hard to make it happen. We only take out what we need and we work hard to pay them back as soon as we can.”

Current and former students around the country are feeling the stress of repaying their student debt. Some have voiced their concerns via a social media movement that has gone viral.

“We Are the 99 Percent,” a blog tied to Occupy Wall Street, displays pictures of anonymous people, many of them students, who say they feel helpless. Blog posts usually contain a single picture describing a personal struggle.

The blog slogan reads, “We are getting kicked out of our homes. We are forced to choose between groceries and rent. We are denied quality medical care. We are suffering from environmental pollution. We are working long hours for little pay and no rights, if we’re working at all. We are getting nothing while the other 1 percent is getting everything. We are the 99 percent.”

One anonymous poster stated, “I went to university because I was told I would need a degree to advance in life. Fast forward past graduation, and I’m actually in worse shape. I am now in debt $50,000 plus in student loans, working a job that is basically on the same level as the one I had before I left for school but without insurance because it’s contract. … I’m living with my sister because I can’t afford a place of my own and because the public transit in my area is pretty bad, I have to get a car that I can’t afford.”

The United States does have measures in place to forgive some student loans.

In 2007, former President George W. Bush signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which included a process to forgive student loan debt if the debtors are employed for 10years in a field of public service, such as law enforcement, public health or education.


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