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!
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 
-- 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
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.
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
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.