Demonstrations and creative protests were held campuses and communities around the country Wednesday to mark Occupy Trillion Day - when U.S. student debt reached $1Trillion. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas attended one of those events, held at the SUNY New Paltz Campus.
Organizers say the protests were staged to draw attention to Wall Street's predatory student loan market - Occupy New Paltz, New York Students Rising and Occupy SUNY New Paltz spent an afternoon interacting with SUNY New Paltz students and faculty - dressed as bankster robbers, one-percenters, and students dragging around their student debt in the form of a ball and chain, urging fellow students to take a pledge to boycott their loans once 1 million people have signed the pledge.
Occupy Trillion Day was intended to highlight the long-term financial and social effects of students and families with insurmountable student debt, which at the trillion dollar mark, is much greaters than either auto or credit-card debt and second only to mortgage debt in the U.S.
According to a study conducted for The Associated Press, 53.6 percent of young adults age 25 or younger with bachelor's degrees find themselves without a job or underemployed, working low-wage jobs that only require a high school degree or less and do not take advantage of their skills. Eirik Bjorkman is the SUNY Regional Organizer for New York Students Rising - he's a New Paltz alumni who graduated last year. Bjorkman gets a small stipend for his work as an activist and is presently living in Oswego, close to his parents and their small store where he helps out part time.
Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner offered empathy, explaining he's still paying on his student loan debt. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has estimated about 15 percent of Americans have outstanding student loan debt, two-thirds of that held by people under 30.
According to a 2011 report by the Project on Student Debt, students in the class of 2010 owe an average of $25,250 in student loan debt.