Students from Auraria campus in Denver, CO, will be joining students from over 100 other schools and universities for a “national day of action,” demanding tuition-free public college, cancellation of any existing debt, and a minimum wage of $15 for campus workers, reports the Colorado Independent.
Elan Axelbank, an organizer at Northeastern University in Boston, explains how increasingly more budget cuts and rising tuition costs have created a nationwide education crisis. He believes that students from the richest nation in the world should not be hit with crippling debt just for receiving a college education.
“So in order for you to get an education, you have to take out loans from these private industries who are profiting off of the fact that we just want to get an education so we can contribute to society in the best way that we possibly can,” said Axelbank.
College graduates from 2015 will have an average of around $35,000 in student loans to pay back. United States government data has shown that more than 40 million people currently share over a trillion dollars in debt. To make matters worse, 58% of these individuals make up 25% of the poorest American citizens.
Axelbank admits that one day of protesting will not be enough to fulfill the group’s demands, but he urges other students to plan for a continued effort, and to create strategic partnerships with other social movements, including Black Lives Matter, organized labor, and the national “Fight for 15” minimum wage advocates.
Fortunately for incoming college students, according to CNN, high school graduates from Pueblo County, CO, will have access to legal marijuana tax-funded college scholarships starting in 2017.
In Pueblo County, 60% of voters approved a measure to implement an increase in taxes of around 5% by 2020 on marijuana growers in order to fund these scholarships as well as other community projects.
This tax increase is projected to raise as much as $3.5 million, at least half of which will be directed to funding college scholarships for Pueblo County high school graduates.
“The whole point of the scholarship program was to make higher education a reality for families who can’t afford to send their kids to school because of debt,” said Paris Carmichael, a spokesperson for Pueblo County.
Carmichael states that this type of scholarship to be funded by marijuana taxes is the first of its kind, leaving some questions about how this will affect students.
The president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce Tyler Henson says that they will need to encourage the growth of the industry, while simultaneously educating minors in how to avoid recreational marijuana.
Any funds left over from the scholarships will be put toward a multitude of other community projects, such as improving playgrounds at an elementary school, funding studies to determine the positive effects of extending an Amtrak route to Pueblo County, and replacing golf carts at a local golf course.