Student debt protesters interrupt Florida university president address

By Amy R. Connolly  |  Oct. 1, 2015 at 3:34 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 1 (UPI) -- University of Central Florida student activists interrupted the college president's speech protesting education debt.

UCF Student Labor Action Project members said President John Hitt is unwilling to sign a pledge that would hold him accountable for informing college employees about the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which allows loan forgiveness for some college graduates who make 10 years of qualifying payments. With an enrollment of 63,300, UCF is the second-largest university in the nation.

"Hey, hey, President Hitt doesn't care about student debt," students chanted, holding up signs protesting Hitt.

"There are a lot of faculty here and staff who have seen debt and may qualify for this program, but they don't even know that they exist," project member Nick Leon, a physics major, said.

During his address, Hitt spoke about student debt, stating half of UCF students leave the school debt-free due to low tuition and fees compared to national standards. He advised students to consider how much debt they are incurring due to non-academic college costs.

"Student tuition at UCF is incredibly low when compared to the rest of the country, there haven't been student tuition increases in several years, so we're very mindful on having students be successful, have them progress through the university quickly and have them leave with jobs and without that student debt," UCF spokesman Grant Heston said after the address.

Project member Nicole Hamm, political science and sociology major, said Hitt needs to take more action to aid in the student debt crisis and inform employees and students about payment options.

"I thought his comment [on student debt] was good advice, but sometimes it's not as easy as picking a cheaper apartment," Hamm said. "I think he needs to take that initiative to help our students."

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