NY Q&A: Occupy Student Debt in Union Square

April 25, 2012 Updated: April 29, 2012

NEW YORK–With student loan obligations reaching the $1 trillion mark, the occupy movement once again came together at Union Square to protest their dissatisfaction with the way the government is handling student loans. Unless the government acts before July, the interest rate students will need to pay on their loans will double from the current subsidized rate of 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. The Senate has a proposal to extend the lower rate first implemented in 2007 for an additional year. The president is proposing offering the rate to newly issued loans. The Epoch Times asked protesters how much they are in debt and what they think a realistic solution to the problem would be?

Sean Mcalpin, 42, Writer, not in debt

Sean Mcalpin preparing to preform in a skit where he is portraying a 1 percent banker. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Sean Mcalpin preparing to preform in a skit where he is portraying a 1 percent banker. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

“I am not actually in student loan debt, I am here as part of the street theater to support all the students here who are in debt. A realistic solution … I think by realistic you mean something that is not too outlandish as to what we are facing, but the solution is outlandish. We are facing $1 trillion in student debt today. July 1st the interest rates will double and it will go to federal loans if they don’t pass the bill to stay the increase. Right now Goldman Sachs and other banks are taking student debt and packaging it in derivatives, selling it in slabs and student loan asset backed securities just like they did with [home] mortgages. They are reaping huge profits from this. It is heating up the same as the mortgages heated up. It’s going to explode and melt down the same way. Student loans are all federal backed, so when these private bankers take these packages they know they will have the government to bail them out again. So when it all blows up, the U.S. government will step in and use our tax dollars to bail them out, which they already use the debt from the public so they are going to walk away with their profit without loosing their business just like they did with the mortgage. So to me there is no reasonable solution. Reasonable has not worked. So what we are trying to do is to get a million signatures, on a petition online, where students are saying, “We are not paying back our debt till you sit down and hear us.” Because big businesses will only listen to big numbers and if it is not monetary numbers it has to be big people numbers. We are trying to get that going now, get solidarity with all the students coming together.”

David Klaffen, 25, PhD Student, $20,000 in debt

David Klaffen (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
David Klaffen (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

“Ideally there would be student debt forgiveness, and a move toward affordable education—something modeled under the K-12 system where people can go to school without expecting to pay certain amounts of money on it. I think we are a long way from that. At the very least they can keep tuition rates from going up, and make it so that interest rates stay low on student debt; and also make it so that people can go bankrupt on student debt, so people who are burdened with it and have come to the end of their rope at least have the option of bankruptcy. So these are practical steps along a road to eventually getting rid of student debt or at the very least making it affordable.”

Josh Douglas, 39, Hofstra Law School, $100,000 in debt

Josh Douglas (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Josh Douglas (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

“The big issue right now surrounding student debt is that the interest rates were rolled back. I think they were rolled back some time during President Bush. Now if Congress doesn’t act between now and July 1st, it is going to go back to the rate that it was before it was decreased. So what will happen is that the corporations that stand to make money off high interest rates will give campaign contributions to the decision makers, which is not the best thing for people going to college, law school, or whatever; it is what is best for their own motives. So if people can reach out to their congressman and their senators, and let them know that we must have these interests rates frozen at the current rate, that would be really good, and a positive movement toward making sure that we maintain an educated population, which is imperative for democracy.”