By John Stang
Much of the OWS movement has focused, not to pigeonhole all the wants of the movement, on the rise student debt after college. This has been mocked by columnists such as Washington Post columnist George Will when he writes:
And forgiveness of “all debt on the entire planet period.” Progressivism’s battle cry is: “Mulligan!” It demands the ultimate entitlement — emancipation from the ruinous results of all prior claims of entitlement.
Outside those who mock the idea of “debt forgiveness” for student loans, others are noting how the crisis is getting worse. U.S.A. Today reports today:
The amount of student loans taken out last year crossed the $100 billion mark for the first time and total loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion for the first time this year. Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards, reports the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Students are borrowing twice what they did a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, the College Boardreports. Total outstanding debt has doubled in the last five years — a sharp contrast to consumers reducing what’s owed on home loans and credit cards.
Full-time undergraduate students borrowed an average $4,963 in 2010, up 63% from a decade earlier after adjusting for inflation, the College Board reports. What’s happening:
Making this worse, Moody’s Analytic says that Youth Unemployment (those under the age of 24) has risen to 15%, 5-6% above the national average. To put it simply, many students need to take out student loans to attend college and in a recession, getting a job to pay off those loans is very difficult.
In order to engage the youth, the OWS should work to take this energy against rising student loan costs and run with it, like they are doing now. There are many solutions that OWS can endorse, such as volunteer service for debt forgiveness, subsidize university level education more, free university level education through higher tax rates, and straight up debt forgiveness. Conservatives will see the last solution as a the ultimate form of entitlement. Depending on how the movement wants to be viewed, finding solutions that would allow students to work to pay off student debt would be a much more palatable solution to someone who is outside the OWS movement and wanting to get on board. I find this issue to be the one most support, but a good solution will keep them on board!
More importantly, engaging the public on certain topics of finance that affect them will be what attracts them to the OWS. Unlike the Tea Party’s obsession with the national debt, which does not impact people directly, student loans, the increasing cost in consumer items, and economic justice are all issues people can identify with. A large swath of political topics is not a bad thing when viewed in this light.
Photo Credit: David Davies on Facebook and Charts from Moody’s Analytics
Update: Ezra Klein posted a really good graph comparing student loans that are 90 days delinquent to other loans.