Students protest overload fee

Lyndsey Schley

Students gathered to protest the overload fee credit limit dropping from 17 to 16 credit hours Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Risman Plaza.

The protestors held signs and discussed how this policy affected them, while also discussing issues with tuition rates, student debt and university spending.

“We were aware of this growing concern people were having around campus about the student debt crisis, particularly since this news was announced,” John Hess, sophomore political science major, said. “This is very concerning to people, so we decided to organize a way for people to get more informed, come out and just learn more about what’s happening here.”

Despite thunderstorm warnings, the crowd peaked at about 25 protestors, Hess said.

The group was unable to bring petitions to the protest due to technical difficulties but will be posting petitions in support of student debt legislature on social media sites in the upcoming days, Hess said. These petitions will support the 2013 Loan Fairness Act and the Student Loan Fairness Amendment to Ohio House Bill 59, which offer different relief plans for people with student debt. Another petition will be against an increase in the Federal Student Loan Interest Rates.

Many of the protestors were members of the Young Democratic Socialists, who will also be hosting an event on student debt April 17 at 7 p.m in room 306 of the Student Center. Speaker Thomas Gokey from Strike Debt will discuss the overall student debt crisis and The Rolling Jubilee campaign, which has been forgiving medical debt, Hess said.

“When banks don’t think their loans will be repaid, they package them and sell them for pennies on the dollar to loan collection agencies,” Hess said. “What this campaign does is they collect donations and then use that money to buy these debt packages and then they forgive them. The people whose debt has been forgiven are encouraged to donate a fraction of that debt back to the campaign in the hopes that the campaign can the reinvest that into buying off more debt. They’re looking to expand into student debt and we’re going to take that into a larger discussion.”

John Best, junior computer science major, attended the protest because student tuition increases may force him to drop out. Best said he discovered he had a learning disability after starting college and will probably graduate about 1 ½ years behind schedule because of this.

“I grew up in a really poor family and finding money for college is kind of like parting the Red Sea,” Best said. “When you do it, you’re kind of like ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe that happened.’ I’m at my limit for what I’m allowed to take out federally as far as federal aid, so if I do not find some other funding source, I will probably not be able to graduate.”

The credit cap is part of a larger problem with higher-education funding, Hess said.

“The thing to keep in mind is that the credit cap isn’t the problem,” Hess said “The credit cap is a symptom of a larger problem. The fact is that Ohio has forgetten it’s dedication to higher education. Wex have an austerity mindset. We try to cut, cut, cut, everyone’s trying to balance the budget, which is balanced anyways, and we’re getting to short end of the stick.”

With the most recent credit-limit decrease, the university saw about 1,000 students drop their credit load from 18 to 17 credit hours, while about 2,000 students maintained their credit load despite the fees, said Eric Mansfield, executive director of University Media Relations.

“We certainly respect their right to voice their opinion,” Mansfield said. “We want our students and their parents to know the university cares very much about the financial landscape and what it’s doing to real families. We make all efforts to minimize the financial burden on students and we’re committed to remaining one of Ohio’s most accessible, affordable universities.”

Contact Lyndsey Schley at [email protected].