Million Student March: The Fight for Debt and Tuition-Free College

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On Thursday thousands of students and activists across the United States marched in more than 100 cities and across more than 120 campuses. Their cause? Tuition-free public college, eliminating student debt, and a $15 an hour minimum wage for campus workers.

A statement from the movement’s website reads:

“Together, we can build an independent movement capable of winning tuition-free public college, a cancellation of all student debt, and a $15/hr minimum wage for all campus workers!”

Organizers of the national walkout are calling it the “Million Student March.”

According to Keely Mullen, one of the organizers for the event, the biggest marches are expected to be held in Santa Barbara, California, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle. Mullen expects to have over $150,000 in debt by the time she graduates from Northeasten University.

Although the three main goals of the event focus on student-related issues, some specific marches may also call for improvements for university staff, such as better pay for professors. Protestors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are demanding action on issues of rape culture and fossil fuel divestment.

Paying for college has become more and more of a problem in the last ten years as graduating students struggle to find jobs to pay off their student loans while students from middle and lower class families struggle to pay for any sort of college education.

Budgets have been cut in nearly every state for higher education, while student loan debt has exploded. The national student loan debt has reached more than $1.2 trillion dollars this year. Because funding has been cut, tuition rates have soared—as much as 60 percent in some states.

Bernie Sanders called for an action such as this earlier this year:

“My view is that the only way we can bring about an agenda that works for working families is if millions of people are actively involved in the political process. If a million young people march on Washington [and] they [say] to the Republican leadership, we know what’s going on, and you better vote to deal with student debt. You better vote to make public universities and colleges tuition free, that’s when it will happen.

We’re already seeing that with the minimum wage. Do you know why the minimum wage is going up around the country? Because workers are going out into the street, so we need a political revolution, in my view, where people begin to stand up and fight and take on the big money interests. If we don’t have that, no president, not the best president in the world will ever be able to accomplish anything.”

(See the full video of his statements here)

According to Think Progress, most of the students marching on Thursday are graduates or students of for-profit colleges.

Organizers of the march hope that it will be a start to a much larger grassroots movement that can spark some real change when it comes to college fees and admissions, especially in relation to student loan debt. And although Bernie Sanders has been at the forefront of talks relating to the issues the march addresses, organizers state they are not officially supporting any candidate.

Free public college is estimated to cost between $15 billion and $70 billion. Put into perspective, the United State’s military budget is $610 billion.

See below for a few updates via Twitter during the Million Student March:

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