COLUMBUS – Students from more than 100 campuses, including some in Ohio, are joining a national day of action demanding tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt and a $15 minimum wage for campus workers.
Spencer McAvoy, who is organizing actions today in the Midwest, says continued state budget cuts and rising tuition costs have created an education crisis.
He says in the richest nation in the world, students shouldn’t have to take on what he calls crippling debt to get a college degree.
“This is a march for student rights and for affordable higher education, also against austerity, which has been behind the draconian cuts across the country that we’ve seen to public education systems,” he states.
McAvoy says, on average, this year’s class of college graduates will have to pay back more than $35,000 in student loans.
He points to U.S. government data showing more than 40 million people share more than a trillion dollars in debt.
And he says 58 percent of that is held by the poorest 25 percent of Americans.
Bowling Green University, Cleveland State University, Ohio University and the University of Akron are among the campuses where students are participating in the national action.
Elan Axelbank, an organizer at Northeastern University in Boston, admits that a single day of protest won’t magically win the group’s three demands.
He says students will need to plan for a sustained effort and make strategic partnerships with other movements, such as Black Lives Matter, organized labor and the national Fight for 15 minimum wage effort.
“It’s going to be a public pressure campaign that gets this won,” he states. “And if we look at history, all major victories for oppressed people – and the working class in general – have come from mass movements, mass public pressure movements.”
Axelbank says if countries such as Slovenia and Brazil can afford to give their people free access to college, it can happen here – if leaders make education a priority.