Student-loan debt has continued to grow despite a financial crisis that constrained credit elsewhere, and the increasing burden amid high unemployment is driving at least part of the protests among the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Last year, Americans began to owe more on their student loans then their credit cards, with student debt reaching the $1 trillion mark. Many have flocked to higher education during the down economy, only to find themselves still unemployed or underemployed.
Zak Cunningham is a 22 year old who graduated from Earlham College in Indiana last spring.
He says he “doesn’t know how much student loan debt” he has, since he hasn’t bothered to count. He doesn’t have a job and wants to go to graduate school, but is worried about the cost.
Cunningham, tall, lanky and bare-chested with a red bandana around his neck and cigarette in hand, is among those flocking to the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations at Zuccotti Park. And while organizers say there’s no official “census” of who make up the protester base at Occupy events, the presence of student loan debtors and young, unemployed people, is noticeable. See a chart made by Mike Konczal, who parsed data from the related We Are the 99%.
In general, college graduates have held up better in this recession than those with only a high school degree. But the cost of education was at the root of many of the Occupy attendees’ complaints.
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