To the editor:
The notion of working your way through college is dead. Most of us who work during college are getting paid just enough to make a small dent in our living expenses. Consequently, we need to take on more student loans than ever to cover tuition and the rest of the basics.
With college costs skyrocketing and wages stagnating, 41 million Americans are now saddled with $1.3 trillion in student debt. At the University of Massachusetts, the average student graduates with roughly $29,000 of student loan debt, according to a 2014 report, which is a travesty for a public university. UMass should be a driver of socioeconomic mobility and equality instead of contributing to our out of balance debt-based economy.
Because state and federal decision-makers have done little to boost wages and hold the higher education system accountable for the student debt crisis, students are coming together to demand a future that works for us. This Thursday in front of the Student Union, students at UMass are joining our peers at over 100 universities in the Million Student March. Together we are raising our voices for tuition-free public college, cancellation of student debt and a $15 minimum wage for all campus workers. The status quo isn’t working – but we can create a higher education system that allows students and our communities to thrive.
Erika Civitarese is a leader of the Student Labor Action Project at UMass.