Students Plan Demonstration For Free College

November 11th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

Students are increasingly fed up with the financial burden of higher education.

On Thursday, coordinated demonstrations are planned across more than 100 campuses nationwide to call attention to crippling student debt, the rising cost of education, and low wages on campuses and elsewhere.

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The Million Student March, which will consist of high school and college students, graduates, campus workers, and families affected by burdensome education costs, and it will call for tuition-free public college, cancelation of student debt, and a $15-per-hour minimum wage for all campus workers, according to the organizer's website.

Organizers said a host of intersecting issues contributed to a perfect climate for broad-based demonstrations. With "the Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, the rising student movement, serious change is on the horizon," Elan Axelbank, an organizer and student at Northeastern University told ATTN:. "We're waking up to the brutal reality that if we don't stand up for our rights, nobody will."

"Students (past, current and future) and workers are marching today to demand a change to our deeply unjust system of higher education," Axelbank continued.

Student debt has ballooned to about $1.2 trillion across 40 million Americans in recent years, with each student this year graduating with an average of over $35,000—the most debt for a graduating class in U.S. history.

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The protests will come just days after low-wage workers staged demonstrations Tuesday in hundreds of cities nationwide, calling on both employers and politicians to raise wages and secure union rights. They also sought to raise awareness of low-wage workers as a significant and potentially influential voting bloc, gathering at city halls across the country, and outside the debate arena at Tuesday's fourth Republican debate in Milwaukee.

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While wage demonstrators have scored a number of victories in various cities and across some businesses, the odds remain stacked; at the start of the GOP debate, leading candidates Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Marco Rubio all said they oppose raising the minimum wage.

But wage and college affordability concerns are becoming increasingly tethered issues, as one McDonald's cashier told ATTN: Tuesday outside her store.

"With $9 [an hour], I can't afford to pay for school, and be able to afford rent," said Anggie Godoy, a college student studying political science and labor issues.

"We need more hours and a raise; I've been working there for a year-and-a-half and I haven't gotten a raise...I can't survive with $9," she continued.

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Some candidates in the 2016 election have proposed both raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour and slashing college costs by making public colleges tuition free or easing debt refinancing and loan forgiveness. Organizers of the Million Student March said that the growth of numerous social movements is difficult to deny.

"This is only the beginning," said Axelbank. "To say that there isn't something in the air on college campuses right now would be crazy. What happened Tuesday with the biggest Fight for $15 day of action in history (and with protests in April starting in dozens of cities on college campuses); what just happened at University of Missouri with the unbelievable show of power by the faculty, student body and the football team; and what's happening with #MillionStudentMarch—it's just impossible to deny."