NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On October 17, Rutgers Students and AAUP-AFT members gathered on the steps of the Brower Commons to launch a campaign for Rutgers to end its affiliation with controversial student loan provider Sallie Mae.
Sallie Mae, originally the Student Loan Marketing Association, was created in 1972 as a federal government enterprise, but started to privatize their operations in 1997. In 2004, Congress terminated their charter, and since then the private corporation has made made huge profits off of college students each year.
John Connelly, President of the Rutgers University student government, called the students assembled at the protest members of the "lost generation."
"This is the most unstable job market since our grandparents lived through the Great Depression."
With weaker employment prospects for graduates, many have experienced great difficulty in paying down their student loans, while record numbers of young alumni have moved back in with their parents.
Event organizers drew attention to a Rutgers contract with Sallie Mae and their subsidiary General Revenue Corporation to serve as debt collectors. Under the deal, GRC recieves 25% of the payments it collects from Rutgers students.
Protesters said that sending debt collectors after students amounted to harassment and cited the recent construction of a private golf course by Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord as sign of Sallie Mae's excesses.
Organizers argued that education is a right, and that the university should not be run as a business.
"We’ve got to think global and act local," said John Aspray, a Rutgers graduate and community organizer with the United States Student Association, borrowing the University's new motto, "Think Globally, Act Locally."
"And here at Rutgers we are asking [University President Robert] Barchi to cut the contract with General Revenue Corporation," said Aspray.
The event closed with about 35 students symbolically tearing up papers which they had written their level of debt on. Some students said that they held more than $80,000 in student loan debt.