Earlier this week, as I watched news footage of scores of people dressed as zombies protesting on Wall Street, I couldn’t help but think, “What a bunch of looney tunes.” I found it hard to take seriously a protest that seemingly lacked any focus.
But as the Occupy Wall Street movement gained more news coverage and the number of participants grew, I decided not to write it off as just another extreme, inchoate grassroots movement.
An interview on NPR with a 25-year-old unemployed college graduate in particular hit home: he expressed serious concern about his ability to make good on the student loan debt he had racked up. I began to identify with the 99%.
A sister movement with a narrower agenda — Occupy Colleges — has sprung up, concerned with mounting student loan debt and a dearth of employment upon graduation. While these concerns are not new, the Occupy Wall Street movement has put them on the front page of newspapers nationwide. Americans, especially young, educated Americans, are angry and they’re coming out in droves to show it.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the average debt of a 2010 University of Baltimore Law School grad who incurred student debt is $94,834, compared with $83,693 for a 2010 University of Maryland Law School grad who incurred student debt.
When I decided to go to law school, I didn’t have pie-eyed expectations of graduating debt-free to a cushy, six-figure salary. But I also did not fully comprehend the impact my student loan debt would have on future career and other life decisions.
While the current Occupy Wall Street movement is fighting a grab bag of social woes and is at risk for dissipating before having any substantial impact, I can only hope that universities and law schools are watching the Occupy Colleges movement. We are a student debt-laden generation that must hold higher education’s feet to the fire on ever-increasing tuition rates and the lack of transparency about the return on investment in advanced degrees.