Boston Students Protest Spiraling Education Costs

BOSTON — About 200 Northeastern University students gathered on Wednesday to condemn what they called corporate control of government and the spiraling costs of their education.

The students came together as part of a nationwide student walk-out to support the Occupy Wall Street movements that have spread to cities around the country, including Boston. Many planned to go to Dewey Square to join the Occupy Boston protest, where nurses’ union members also were expected.

“We’re letting inequality build in this country and there’s not enough resistance,” said senior international affairs major Andrea Gordillo, of Sarasota, Fla.

“There are real bread and butter issues in this country like the future of Social Security and our parents’ retirement that aren’t being taken care of now, and we’re the ones who are going to be called on to fix that,” she said of her generation.

The students banged on drums made of water jugs and chanted slogans, including “Banks got bailed out, and we got sold out,” and “They say cut back, and we say fight back.”

One person held a sign that said, “It’s We the People, not We the Corporations.”  Another demonstrator carried a yellow “Don’t tread on me” flag with a coiled snake that has been re-popularized by the Tea Party movement.

James Griffin, a third-year student from North Andover, said the movement inspired him to get involved in a social cause for the first time.

“I understand that the people who control the economy in this country don’t always have the best interests of people like me in mind,” he said.

Alyssa Castiglia is concerned about the debt she faces upon graduation. The senior music industry major from Buffalo, N.Y., says even with scholarships, grants and financial aid, she faces student debt of $125,000. She chose Northeastern because it had the best program for her field.

“I don’t want to be restricted to choosing a college by what I could afford,” she said. “My dean keeps telling me they keep raising costs to keep up the perception that we’re on par with the Ivy League schools. That’s ridiculous.”

Some students didn’t have a class scheduled at the time of the noon campus rally, but others, including Castiglia, skipped class with the blessing of her professors.

International Affairs professor Denise Horn didn’t have a class scheduled, but said she would have understood had students wanted to cut.

“These students are learning how to be engaged in a civil society, and I support that,” she said. “They feel the system has failed them and they need a voice.”

Stephen Weyel, a sophomore health sciences major, stopped by the rally on his way to work out of curiosity, and said he sympathized with the demonstrators.

“It isn’t right how the wealth in this nation is spread around,” he said. “People here are just voicing their opinion.”

Victoria Porell, a third-year student from Phoenix, Ariz., helped organize the rally, and noted the number of people taking pictures.

“Those are going to be shared, and this is going to spread,” she said.