Nightly News   |  October 16, 2011

From dorms to tents, students protest loans

The average college graduate this year has more than $27,000 in student debt, and a lot of those graduates are taking to the streets with the Occupy protests. CNBC's Scott Cohn reports.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

LESTER HOLT, anchor: And as you know, one of the often mentioned concerns among young protesters on Wall Street and around the country, their crushing debt from student loans . CNBC 's Scott Cohn with us for that part of the story.

SCOTT COHN reporting: Twenty-two -year-old Rose Swider took time out from her studies at a state college in upstate New York to be part of Occupy Wall Street . She'll graduate in May with a degree in agriculture, $35,000 in student loans with no idea how she'll pay it back.

Ms. ROSE SWIDER: We did what we are supposed to do, go to college, get an education, you'll get a job, you'll get a house, like you'll be cool, it'll all be settled and you'll be stable and you'll have, like, some sort of security.

COHN: The average college graduate this year has more than $27,000 in student debt, a record high. But with the worst job market in years, student loan defaults are up 25 percent in the last year. That's led some protesters in the streets and on Twitter to demand relief.

Source: FinAid.org

Ms. SWIDER: I think the bank's got a bailout, students should get a bailout.

COHN: To many of the protesters the student loan crunch symbolizes the growing gap between rich and poor. College tuition is rising twice as fast as inflation, leaving a college education for many increasingly out of reach. Ryan Rice has joined the protesters in Los Angeles . He'll graduate more than $30,000 in debt.

Mr. RYAN RICE: I'm eating rice and beans and I'm, you know, it's living paycheck to paycheck.

Protesters: We got sold out! Banks got bailed out. We got sold out!

Ms. LAUREN ASHER (Project on Student Debt): People with student debt are rightly concerned about whether they'll be able to pay it back and what impact it's going to have on their lives, on their ability to buy a home, start a family, save for retirement.

COHN: Unlike most forms of debt, student loans generally can't be refinanced or wiped out by declaring bankruptcy, leaving many feeling trapped and some move to take their frustration to the streets. Scott Cohn, CNBC, New