Occupy, Obama Beat Drums for Student Loan Reform

Apr 25, 2012 2:31pm

Never quite on the same page, President Obama and the loosely affiliated Occupy movement appear, for one day at least, to be reading from the same volume.

In less than 24 hours, both the president and Occupy have made vocal pushes for student debt relief. Obama made two stops yesterday — in North Carolina, then Colorado — to publicly pressure Congress to extend 2007′s College Cost Reduction and Access Act. Failure to move could mean the doubling of interest rates on certain popular student loans.

Mitt Romney and Republican congressional leaders have also said they favor re-upping the subsidies.

More than 7 million college students would face an average $1,000 hike in their annual payments if the extension is not passed, the administration says.

Today, Occupy Wall Street hopes to join the discussion in grand fashion, having organized “demonstrations and creative protests” across the country to mark the moment America’s student debt is scheduled to surpass $1 trillion, according to statistics from Finaid.org. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York mostly agrees with that figure, telling the Associated Press yesterday that “15 percent of Americans, or 37 million people, have outstanding student loan debt. The bank puts the total at $870 billion, though other estimates have reached $1 trillion. About two-thirds of student loan debt is held by people under 30.”

Whatever Washington ends up doing (or failing to do) as the interest rate deadline nears, Occupy Spokesman Ed Needham says it won’t be enough, and that the president is, in effect, “outlining a prescription for fixing the student debt crisis that is akin to putting a Band-aid on a tumor and telling the patient to go home.

“This discussion takes away from the real story about student loan debt,” Needham told ABC News, “which is that it’s being repackaged and sold as securities, like with mortgages before, in effect creating a trillion-dollar bubble.”

Planning for “One Trillion Dollar Day” began late last year, Occupy organizers said, with the arrangements largely falling to the “Occupy Student Debt Campaign,” a coalition of Occupy-related groups with a focus on the student debt crisis.

The April 25 protests are meant as “a reminder that private banks are still very much in the predatory lending business; this time it’s students not homeowners,” Professor Andrew Ross, an event organizer, said in a OWS statement.

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