Sara Routhier, Managing Editor of Features and Outreach, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming worl...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 15, 2011

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Occupy Wall Street continues to make resounding vibrations across the various media outlets as their protests have expanded beyond the property lines of corporate America, and have now infiltrated into other sectors that the 99 percent have allegedly been victimized in. Student loan debt, house foreclosures, and even shipping ports have all fallen prey to the Occupy movement—this massive collection of protesters seems to be sweeping across the nation like an unstoppable militia, baring arms against anything they come across pertaining to capitalism.

 

This collective movement boasts that it is leaderless and without any demands. They’re an anarchic movement governed by “general assemblies,” facilitated discussions where decisions are made not by a leader or majority vote, but by the consensus of all involved. Naturally, decisions take time through this manner, which may explain the lack of any demands or collective reasoning behind the protests.

 

That’s not to say the movement has been running around with its head cut off; no, they wouldn’t have acquired the numbers and support they currently have if they didn’t have some sort of direction. The Occupy movement is simply protesting against entities they disagree with. What began as Wall Street turned to every other piece of corporate America they feel is oppressing the masses.

 

Noble as that may sound, there’s a fundamental flaw with the Occupy movement(s)—they’re crippling the 99 percent while leaving their target, the 1 percent, unscathed.

 

The Student Debt Fight

 

The fight against student loan debt was the second arm to grow out of the amorphous Occupy Wall Street movement, and perhaps the most demonstrative of the assertion that the movement hurts the 99 percent.

 

From the very beginning of the occupation in Zuccotti Park, leaders of the movement shouted about the figurative debt prison most students and graduates have been bound by as a result of their student loans. It was only a matter of time before the movement truly got behind such cries and launched attacks at the student loan industry.

 

Created a few months after the occupation of Zuccotti Park began, Occupystudentdebt.com became a Mecca for heartbreaking student loan debt stories—and more are added every single day. The word heartbreaking isn’t meant to be the slightest bit facetious either, as most of these stories would strike an empathetic nerve in even the most conservative in this nation. However, the demands listed on this site are just too unreasonable to back—regardless of political affiliation.

 

The reasoning?

 

Occupystudentdebt.com requests all student loan debt to be forgiven. The leaders of this site feel that if Sallie Mae, the organization in charge of federal student loans, was forced to forgive all outstanding student debt, then the 99 percent who are being crushed under their debt would be freed—and the 1-percenters that profit from the debt would be financially struck down.

 

While debt relief sounds wonderful, it’s juvenile to suggest such an impacting plan without considering the implications that would arise if it were carried out.

 

What Would Happen if Student Loan Debt Were Forgiven?

 

Simply put, if student loan debt were forgiven, the 99 percent would be the ones to bite the bullet.

 

Colleges don’t just arbitrarily charge their students. There are costs to running a college—in fact there are enormous costs. According to a paper by the U.S. Department of Education regarding the costs to run a college, it takes over $1 million on average to tenure a single professor. That money can quickly add up for colleges composed of several thousand professors, wherein hundreds turn over every few years. In fact, it adds up so much that 75 percent of funds that colleges receive are reportedly for staff salaries.

 

The catch-22 with such wages is that colleges cannot afford not to pay these salaries, because, compared to other professions, college professors don’t receive that high of a salary. And if a college begins cutting back on their professors’ wages, the great minds will leave and pursue a career elsewhere. Perhaps not immediately, but the amount of talent universities’ boast will simply not replenish if their employees’ minds aren’t appreciated.

 

If student loan debt is entirely forgiven, college professors will suffer.

 

Colleges are also subject to many regulations and expenses beyond their control. They need to pay for maintenance on buildings and property grounds every single day. They usually are required to provide services to the city and state they reside in. These services, including research, healthcare, community service projects, housing, and many others, are not free. State-of-the-art labs and facilities required to train our nation’s professionals are not free. Providing financial aid and scholarships is not free.

 

Rather, colleges depend on student costs to fund all of these necessities. Often times, like so many other organizations, colleges make purchases on credit. Today’s students are paying for tomorrow’s amenities.

 

If student loan debt is forgiven, the costs owed to construction companies’, landscapers, faculty, technology manufacturers, and every other entity that contributes to improving the quality of colleges will not be forgotten about. Rather, those costs will likely fall on the communities or states the colleges belong to, and the tax payer will ultimately suffer.

 

Sallie Mae, the largest student loan originator in the nation, employs nearly 8,000 people according to its Yahoo Finance profile. Despite the fact that many see Sallie Mae as the enemy, its employees (save the top members of the company’s board) are not 1-percenters.

 

Last year, 2,500 of the company’s employees were laid off due to student loan law changes. Those were not 1-percenters.

 

If student loan debt is entirely forgiven, thousands of 99-percenters would be left without a job.

 

Fallacious Reasoning and Propaganda

 

The Occupy Student Debt movement suffers from this poorly-thought-out drive, and the public sees that.

 

Another website to spawn out of this movement was Occupystudentdebtcampaign.org, a group striving to collect one million signatures and then have all who signed collectively default on their loans. Such proposals are far too radical, as even the most of liberal student-debt-haters see what a detrimental move like that would be to the individual.

 

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Defaulting sounds noble, and revolutionary, but the life-long effect it will have on debtors is something that over 996,000 more people need to ignore before the website acquires the appropriate amount of support.

 

Then there are faulty charts circulating around the major social media outlets and through chain emails. This one on the left, for example, has tried to incite support by providing a sensational visual of how student loan debt truly is an out-of-control epidemic (From OccupyPosters.Tumblr.com).

 

But, after taking a closer look, evidence-seeking internet users found this chart has no backing whatsoever, as it cites a non-existent set of data.

 

The chart claims the information used to create the visual came from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis as its source for the growth between 1990 and 2011, but, according to a Yahoo News article, a spokesperson for that bank has no idea what report or dataset the creators of this chart were referring to.

 

What’s to Come of This?

 

The Occupy Wall Street Movement equates themselves to those who led the French Revolution, and to Guy Fawkes, a revolutionary who conspired to blow up parliament. But if they’re to be taken seriously, and be considered even remotely like their idols, the Movement needs to establish a true motive and a well-thought-out goal.

 

Unless the Occupy Student Debt movement begins to make serious, constructive, and grounded demands, then their cries will sound far too extreme, and their movement will be no French Revolution—but rather just a blown up version of the 1960’s Berkley Riots.