Monday, February 27, 2012

CACHE Organizes Rally, March, and Speak-out against Crushing Student Debt on at Chase Bank on March 1st

Via press release

Chicago university students call for action at Chase Bank, a large holder of student debt, on the National Student Day of Action on March 1st to assert that no person should be forced into a life of crushing debt in order to get an education. The day will begin with actions on individual Chicago university campuses, including a city-wide walk-out, and students from all schools will convene at Grant Park (Michigan and Congress) at 1:00pm for a rally before marching to Chase Headquarters. Activists hope their actions on this day will draw attention to the real state of higher education in this country: limited access in the first place, no guarantee of a job after graduation, and a
life-time of unpayable debt.

There is a myth in this country that “everyone goes to college.” While a university education has always obscured the socio-economic factors which limit access to college, in the current economic climate, this trend can no longer be ignored, as fewer and fewer students are able to afford a degree. Working multiple part-time jobs, taking on outrageously inflated student loans, amassing credit card debt -- such is the life of a ‘student’ today, a life that almost makes the prospect of going without higher education seem the more attractive alternative. As for finding a job upon graduating, much less one that pays a living wage, has decent benefits, and (how dare we!) matches one’s
desires -- well, good luck!

The traditional promise of higher education-- that it provides opportunities for a better life -- has been foreclosed along with the homes of many Americans. Colleges and universities--once the cornerstone of American social mobility--have been transformed into revolving doors for students who enter with high hopes only to exit with massive debt, few job prospects, and little of substance in exchange for all their troubles.

Many economists are considering that the student debt bubble may soon burst and leave the US economy in a triple-dip recession. Furthermore, the average student debt of $25,250 [1] -- a number that is not only growing steadily with each new semester, but is already significantly higher for minority students -- renders students unable to take lower paying, fulfilling positions such as public service employment or elementary school teaching. Higher education’s former mission of developing balanced, enlightened individuals who can serve their community reveals itself as no more than a lie.

Moreover, the corporatization of higher education has produced a climate of vicious competition and insecurity on and between campuses. At the same time, ballooning tuition costs have subsidized increasing administrator compensation. Meanwhile the burden on families grows with each new term, while the wages of most American families are stagnant. Administrations have proved increasingly willing to dispense with the more traditional elements of higher education in favor of extravagant construction projects designed for the purpose not of servicing the community but of drawing families (i.e. ‘revenue generators’) to the institution with the most lavish facilities.

If our universities -- which already look more and more like resorts -- are not to become museums; and if this country is not to fall even deeper into recession, the cost of education must be addressed. When higher education becomes the preserve of the privileged, it becomes a mockery of what it claims to deliver. Over the last few decades, the minority in power has waged a war on higher education, realizing that
by restricting access to higher education, the general public will be stripped of the tools and the opportunities to criticize and resist the destructive policies forged by the privileged. Their attack on higher education has not only worked to disable dissent, but has disproportionately disadvantaged (socioeconomic, racial, and queer) minority students.

While universities cut programs -- almost all of which are those that, as it happens, have a history of enabling critical response and reflection on a situation that presents such ‘sacrifices’ as necessary --based, of course, solely on the criterion of profit-generation, university officials wonder at the loss of critical thinking skills among university students.

It is in this context that CACHE has decided to intervene. We have decided to throw a few wrenches into a machine that demolishes places of learning only to replace them with corporate theme parks. Given that Chase Bank is one of the more egregious offenders in this respect, especially in terms of their role in student lending; given that their commercial headquarters is also conveniently located here in Chicago;
CACHE has decided to take on Chase.

Chase Bank’s infiltration of universities and colleges -- in terms of profiting from and supporting the process of displacing growing costs onto students -- has transformed our campuses. If you have ever wondered why bank logos and ATM’s are plastered all over your campus, consider that banks pay colleges and universities when students obtain and use their credit cards. The largest provider of Visa cards happens to be Chase Bank.

Let us have no illusions: the ideal of higher education as a place of enlightened debate and diversity of encounters -- let alone reflection on our history, a history that determines our present more than ever in spite of our many efforts to ignore it -- has been eliminated. The student lending industry -- in which Chase Bank functions as a major player -- has had no small role to play in this process.

We will therefore stand in solidarity with students across the nation and the world when we walk out of our classrooms and down to Chase Tower on Thursday, March 1st, 2012. This walk-out and subsequent demonstration are the next step in our continued escalation of the struggle for students’ futures. For too long, the 1%--or, to be specific, the .00064%--has brought the fight to us in the form of FAFSA forms and credit card opportunities. This time, we bring the fight to them. On March 1st, students across Chicago intend to make it very clear to J.P. Morgan Chase that students will no longer permit the consequences of its lending practices slip past the public unnoticed.

We will rally and march on Chase Tower, where we will conduct a variety of actions in protest of Chase’s increasing control over our future. And this will not be our last action. The recent creation of the Coalition Against Corporate Higher Education gives voice to a new spirit of unrest and anger among students in Chicago and across the country. We are devoted to the education and empowerment of students world-wide in an age when education has transformed into just another site of profit-accumulation.

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