By Andrew Blanton
April 14, 2016
San Marcos – A group of Texas State University students marched Wednesday, demanding tuition-free college and large wage increases.
Protesters in the Million Student March chanted “fight, fight, fight, fight, education is a right,” through the Quad, asking for an increase in the current federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour, and forgiveness of student loan debt.
Students participating in the Million Student March on April 13. Photo by Andrew Blanton.
“We are people of all colors, genders, and sexual orientation, and we are united to fight for education as a human right,” it says on the Million Student March San Marcos Facebook page. “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!”
View the groups Facebook page here
“I’m here because I believe that education is a right, and not a commodity,” sophomore Natalie Williamson said. “I think that everyone should have the chance to thrive, and that only the few privileged shouldn’t be the ones that get a chance at surviving.”
A student speaking in the Million Student March April 13. Photo by Andrew Blanton
Williamson said that for many people struggling, the price of college tuition is a matter of life or death.
“I want to be empathetic towards those people’s struggle,” Williamson said. “I want to help them have more of a voice, and help unite people to speak for them.”
Students discuss the Million Student March protest. Video by Andrew Blanton
Some protesters carried signs supporting democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Sanders said that he plans to eliminate public college tuition if elected in a CNN interview last year.
“Today 99% of all new income is going to the one percent,” Sanders said. “What you need to do is say to the wealthiest people and largest corporations: you know what? You’re going to have to start paying your fair share of taxes. You can’t stash your money in the Cayman Islands.”
Watch the full interview here
Sanders said the funding for his tuition plan would come from a tax on Wall Street speculation.
“Right now you have people who are becoming phenomenally wealthy by speculating in derivatives, and every other type of esoteric instrument that they can,” Sanders said. “What we’re going to impose is what exists in dozens of countries around the world. A very modest tax on the transference of large amounts of stock.”
Sanders said that this new tax would bring in over $300 billion per year.
“I think it’s going to take a number of steps along the way to get to free tuition,” Tom Wakely, Democratic Congressional candidate for District 21 said. “If we look at that as the end goal, and start working towards that, that’s something that we should actually try to do.”
Wakely was invited by students to participate in the discussion, and said he supports the implementation of a student advisory board to examine the universities tuition, and an increase in the minimum wage.
“I think a $15 minimum wage is where we should be at,” Wakely said. “It’s so hard to live off of anything other than that, you know, trying to raise a family.”
Computer Science major Kristoffer Celera came dressed in a blond wig, Speedo-like shorts and coat and tie to counter the Million Student March protest. Celera, a former Marine, said he earned his tuition through the G.I. bill.
“It’s a fair exchange,” Celera said. “You give service to the public, and you get something back, paid by public tax dollars.”
Kristoffer Celera at the Million Student March April 13. Photo by Andrew Blanton
“It’s our money that’s being used,”chemistry graduate student Tim Caldwell said. “Any time this happens, taxes are increased. It always comes back to us.”
Caldwell said that he lived in Sweden for two years, where students do not have to pay for college tuition.
“People don’t value it as much, if you don’t have to pay for it yourself,” Caldwell said. “That’s exactly the attitude they had in Sweden.”
Students participating in the Million Student March on April 13. Photo by Andrew Blanton
“The rapidly rising inequality that we’ve seen, over the past decade especially, is reflected in what’s going on in education right now,” political science major Ryan Cook said. “We’re seeing the corpriatization of universities, we’re seeing the explosion of administrative salaries, and it’s being financed on the backs of students.”
Cook said that the middle class never recovered from the economic recession in 2008.
“The only people that ever recovered from that recession are the wealthy,” Cook said.
Cook said that the current student loan system is not sustainable.
“They might be able to squeeze through it, and pay off their debt,” Cook said. “Most people, at this point, will not be able to realistically.”
Cook said that corporate banks should be nationalized, and that assets seized would pay for current student loan debt, as well as issuing reparations for people who have paid off their student loans.
“As a secondary step, once we get actual existing debt squared away, I think reparations are probably in order from the money that was stolen from those students,” Cook said.