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SOUL hosted its Student Debt Demonstration in Houston Hall this past Friday.

Credit: Courtesy of SOUL

Students Organizing for Unity and Liberation held a Student Debt Demonstration this past Friday to protest Penn’s no-loan policy as part of their Ferguson Friday series.

Throughout the day, students visited stations in the ARCH building and Houston Hall and wrote their level of indebtedness on a plaque, which they then wore around their necks for the rest of day. Other students participated via social media by posting pictures of themselves along with a plaque depicting their accumulated debt.

“This is an issue of accessibility and equal opportunity. Who gets to participate in certain opportunities that Penn has to offer is limited to one’s socioeconomic status,” SOUL wrote in a statement. “Penn must revise its no-loan policy to truly support impoverished students to graduate from Penn without debt.”

SOUL believes this issue affects students all across campus.

“The issue of student’s no-loan policy isn’t just a SOUL issue — this is an undergraduate student, graduate student, all student issue,” said College senior Breanna Moore, SOUL’s co-founder and chair.

While SOUL is most well-known for its demonstrations regarding racial equality, it believes that economic freedom is just as important.

“For a University to promise low-income students, who are mostly students of color, the option to go to this school and be able to graduate debt-free with a no-loan grant or scholarship aid package, this is something that must be adhered to,” Moore said.

Despite the University’s no-loan policy, 36 percent of Penn undergraduate students take out loans, the third-highest rate among Ivy League universities. College of Liberal and Professional Studies students, who do not have a no-loan guarantee, often have it even worse.

“It is very important for people to understand the real story of what students are experiencing and how that differs from the no-loan policy,” LPS junior Casey Bridgeford said. “You have people moving across the country to come to school at Penn, and I’ve heard there are people who only eat every other day because they have no food to eat while they’re at Penn.”

Friday’s Student Debt Demonstration was SOUL’s first financial-focused Ferguson Friday event.

“There is no shame in us having or showing that we have loans, rather Penn should be ashamed for telling the world that it is accessible when many of the students of low-income backgrounds are forced to take out loans,” SOUL wrote on their Facebook event page.

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