The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Jake Stilwell, USSA, 202-640-6572
Chris Lindstrom, U.S. PIRG, 617-747-4330
Caleb Gibson, Demos, 202-263-4576

Students and Young Adults Hit Hard by Financial Crisis

New Brief Shows Young Americans Need Wall Street Reform


Young Americans face "lasting damage" from the dual crises
in the financial sector and in personal finance, making it urgent that Congress
pass strong financial reform legislation.

Our Future Middle Class: Young Americans Need Financial Reform (PDF)
, released on Thursday by
three leading youth advocacy organizations - the United States Student
Association, U. S. Public Interest Research Group, and Demos - documents
how hard youth have been hit by the country's economic crisis.

  • Young
    people (16-24 year-olds) have higher unemployment rates than any other
    population group.
  • Programs
    have been cut, or tuitions increased, or both, at most of the country's
    public colleges and universities.
  • Young
    Americans have high levels of debt due to private student loans, credit card
    balances, mortgages and car loans.

Our Future Middle Class
makes it abundantly clear of the urgency to pass the
America's Restoring Financial Stability Act, S. 3217, now under consideration
by the Senate. Among other things, the legislation would establish an
independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB),
regulate derivatives and other shadow markets, end the too-big-to-fail
regime and provide other safeguards following the world's greatest financial
meltdown since the Great Depression of 1929.

credit cards to private student loans, we've been aggressively targeted
by abundant but risky credit," explained Andrew Merki, a junior at the
University of Indiana at Bloomington and the chair of the Indiana PIRG, a member of the U.S. Public Inerest Research Group.
"The tens of thousands of dollars in high interest loans I'll have
to repay at graduation will benefit the banks, but keep me in a financial

is a generation of 18 - 29 year olds unemployed or involuntarily out of
the workforce," added Angela Peoples of the United States Student Association.
"With jobs scarce, higher education should be an accessible training
ground, but instead it is under siege."

Our Future Middle Class
documents that debt has become a defining
characteristic for today's generation of young adults. For instance,
private student loans typically have uncapped, variable interest rates reaching
as high as 18% in recent years, and they cannot be deferred in the event of job

adults need tools to save and build assets for the future, otherwise
they'll be dragged down by a predatory financial market," noted
Caleb Gibson of Demos. "We need more
disclosure, fair pricing, and protection from the excessive risk taking of

Senator Dick
Durbin (D-IL) recently sponsored an amendment to the Wall Street reform package
that would ensure that private loans from the country's largest student
lender, Sallie Mae, fall under the CFPB's authority.

"Too often,
students, who don't realize the long-term impact of their loan decisions,
fall victim to high interest rates and predatory lending. We owe it to
them and their families to make sure higher education remains accessible by
putting strong protections in place that prevent abusive practices in private
student lending," Durbin said.

legislation passed the House in December. According to Americans for Financial Reform,
a coalition of more than 250 reform organizations including U.S. PIRG, USSA,
and Demos, industry opponents of the strongest parts of the reform package have
been spending almost $1.4 million a day since the beginning of 2009 in an
attempt to weaken the pending legislation through special interest carve-outs
and weakening amendments.

# # #

more information on Americans for Financial Reform, visit
For more information on improving the private student loan marketplace, visit

Risking Our Future Middle Class: Young Americans Need Financial Reform (PDF)

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.