Student organization fights to lower student debt
By Eisabetta Silvestro/The Guardsman
City College’s Student Labor Action Project rallied March 6 with other community organizations at City Hall to call on Wells Fargo CEO and Chevron board member John Stumpf to modify Wells Fargo student loans and withdraw Chevron’s opposition to the oil extraction tax.
City College’s Student Labor Action Project (SLAP), Jobs with Justice and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment organized the rally.
Approximately 20 people gathered on the Polk Street steps in front of City Hall for the demonstration that also marked the launch of the “Higher Ed, Not Debt” political campaign.
The campaign was officially launched in Washington with several events held throughout the country. Over 60 national and state-based organizations are dedicated to tackling the issue of student loan debt. Total student debt stands at $1.2 trillion and college tuitions continue to rise.
“Money for public education, not for Wall Street corporations,” was one of the chants the ralliers repeated.
SLAP’s goal is to improve college affordability and increase the minimum wage on campus to $10.74.
Students are currently paid $9 an hour, which is below San Francisco’s minimum wage.
According to the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, full-time students can be paid a sub-minimum wage and students in the federal work-study program can be paid no less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
“We believe that our students should not have to go into debt to get through school,” Student Trustee Shanell Williams said.
John Eller, director of San Francisco’s Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, said their goal is to get Stumpf to modify student loans to and to withdraw Chevron’s opposition to the oil severance tax, which would bring $2 billion back into higher education and health and human services per year.
“He (Stumpf) is one of the major people that could actually help fix the problem in California education and student debt,” Eller said. “Wells Fargo owns some of the highest amount of student debt in the country.”
California is the fourth largest oil-producing state in the nation and the only major producer that does not tax oil extraction.
“We want these corporations to pay their fare share,” Williams said. “They should be supporting our students and not just making these huge profits with no respect and no concerns for their community.”
At the end of the hour-long rally, the demonstrators went to protest in front of Stumpf’s Chestnut Street residence.
Participants displayed signs reading “education is a right, not a privilege” and “Wells Fargo tax oil, not students.”
“Isn’t it a crying shame that this financial system of ours in the United States has become so corrupt?” Ken Tray, political director of United Educators of San Francisco, said. “(When our students) go on to pursue their dreams in higher education, they are chained with insurmountable loans.”
San Francisco State University professor Sheila Tully addressed the problem of the lack of full-time positions in higher education. She said that the majority of jobs are low-wage and temporary positions so “faculty have no hopes of paying off their student loans.”
“One of the things about the debt crisis is that it’s not just about students and it’s going to really break the economy,” Tully said. “This is a collective problem. It’s a social issue.”
Williams said that it is not right that the college has to accept that the money is just not there and live within its means, when corporations like Wells Fargo and Chevron possess the money.
“We want to keep the community in community college,” Williams said.
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