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Top 15 ‘We Are the 99 Percent’ Signs From Young Americans

As the "We Are the 99 Percent" Tumblr site quickly nears its 2,000th submission, we took a look through the hundreds of posts to find some of the most memorable vignettes about young Americans and their struggles with college affordability or employment. A good deal of the posters are young, many of them current or recent college graduates. And college debt crops up—a lot.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post notes:

College debt [is] more insistently present than housing debt, or even unemployment. That might speak to the fact that the protests tilt towards the young. But it also speaks, I think, to the fact that college debt represents a special sort of betrayal. We told you that the way to get ahead in America was to get educated. You did it. And now you find yourself in the same place, but buried under debt. You were lied to.

Here's our Top 15 posts from the Tumblr; click the photo for the original post. But we know there are hundreds more—did we miss one? Do you have a favorite? Share it with us.


'Education should not be based on your family's wealth'




I’m an electrical engineer with a good paying job but have had to deal with $80,000+ worth of student debt even with substantial financial aid.  My old classmates from wealthy families never had to deal with this stress.

I consider myself fiscally conservative and DON’T want handouts but why is so much money wasted in college administration that makes it ten+ times more expensive than years before?

College education should not be based on your family’s wealth or be so expensive.

I AM THE 99% !


'I had to drop out of college'


I am a 28 year old mother and $50,000 in debt from student loans. I had to drop out of college when the gov’t decided I made too much money serving coffee to qualify for grants.

I am raising my infant in my in-laws living room. I lay awake at night fearful that I brought a child into a loveless, money hungry world.

I am not a “consumer”, a “tax payer”, a “voter”, a “demographic”. I am an American citizen. I am the 99%


'This system is about luck, and not hard work'


I am a college student. I will graduate only $30,000 in debt.

I am lucky.

I work hard. I got a loan and bought my own car which I have since paid off. I’ve written a novel. I work 30+ hours a week at minimum wage.

But I am healthy. If I were to get sick, I would have to stop working and could not afford school.

If this private school had not accepted me, my second option (public school) would have left me over $60,000 in debt.

I am lucky, but I realize that many are not. This system is about luck, and not hard work. Everyone should be given a chance to succeed. I am the 99%


'The wealthy had a duty and a privilege to help people'



'What am I doing wrong?!'


I’m a 26 year old, first generation college student.

4.0 average, honours, R.A., and working two other jobs with a full course load.


3.5k (and growing!) in debt, homeless without dorms, no health insurance, and sometimes I have no $ for food.

Where is the justice? Where is my future?

What am I doing wrong?!

I am the 99%.


'one student loan payment or five weeks of groceries'


one student loan payment or five weeks worth of groceries


'I have a BA and I'm still eating ramen noodles'


I have a BA and I’m still eating ramen noodles.  I work for a community college because I want to help nontraditional and disadvantaged students pursue higher education.  I would donate my blood to the Red Cross but I’m deferred because I sell my plasma so I can help pay for the ramen noodles. 

I want student loans forgiven for public service employees, universal health care, and when I’m old I want to travel across America on a high speed rail system.  I am the 99%.


'I am one of the lucky ones, because I haven’t lost everything yet'


I am 35 years old. I have a BA and attended grad school until I had to drop out for financial reasons. I made excellent grades and played by all the rules that “good kids” are supposed to play by to be successful.

I make about 35K and owe 50K in student loans for a Master’s Degree I couldn’t finish.

I have never owned a home and probably never will.  I rent a room from a friend.  The house is currently underwater and I am afraid he will decide to walk away. I have never lived without roommates.

I have never had a full time job.  They have all been “part time” jobs where I work 40+ hours a week, but they don’t want to give me the higher level of benefits.

I hate my job, but I stay and work hard because I know I am lucky to have it.  I am one of the privileged few to still have good benefits.  

We are expected to do the work of 2 or 3 people and have mandatory overtime every week because they don’t want to hire any more people.  I am exhausted all the time.  My health has declined due to the stress and I now have to take medications to deal with it.    

The company is making near record profits, and our department is directly contributing to the company’s profitability.   These profits are not going back to us, they are going to the 1%.  Instead, our benefits are getting cut by about 10% due to the “bad economy”.   

I know I am one of the lucky ones, because I haven’t lost everything yet.


'We’re lucky because we had grandpa’s money'


My family…we’re lucky.

My grandfather passed away in 2010 and left us some money. Without it, I don’t know where we’d be.

I’m 21 and make $10 an hour. I’m a full time student at a public university that we wouldn’t be able to afford without grandpa’s money. For the past three years my parents have gotten lay off notices. Fortunately, they kept their jobs. Each year, they received pay cuts, however, as my tuition rose nearly 17% and the cost for our family’s healthcare also rose.

We’re lucky because we had grandpa’s money.

I miss my grandpa.

We are the 99%.


'I can’t afford my dream'


I am a senior at a top fashion school in New York City. My dream job is to do editorial at a major publication like Vogue or Elle.  Even though I am qualified, I can’t afford my dream because it only pays $30,000/yr (or even less starting out). Because girls from very affluent families want to work at magazines, Daddy continues to pay her bills and expenses (even though they aren’t all necessarily qualified for the positions) and magazines don’t need to increase their salaries.  My parents have “white collar” jobs, but based on principle, won’t pay for anything after I graduate. Living in new york is expensive: my box (apartment) is $1,700/month and to dress like I belong at Vogue is too. I’d have to waitress to make ends meet (and have no life) or (ironically) date a Wall St guy (the norm), but I’d rather OCCUPY WALL ST than date it.

I cannot afford to work in my industry.

I am the 99%.


'What more do you want from me?'


I have done everything I can to be responsible with my income. I have never been able to afford a car, so I bike or take public transit. When I was 22 I was laid off from a management position in a textbook warehouse and had to go into credit card debt to stay afloat until I found a gig washing dishes part-time.

It took 2 years, but I paid off every dime to those credit card companies.

I have a 3.8 GPA and am 1 year away from graduation but because of the disgustingly high tuition costs, I am already sitting with $30,000.00 in student loan debt.

My partner is fortunate enough to be working for a wonderful non profit that gives her amazing health insurance but because it is through Anthem, they do not recognize our nearly 5 year union.

I have a mouthful of cavities (no dentist visit since 2005) and regular bloodwork to manage and pay for along with my medication. 

I am blessed with excellent health otherwise. 

I work 2 part-time jobs, and participate extensively in volunteer work in my community.

What more do you want from me?

I am from Lexington, KY and I AM THE 99%


'I am lucky because we sued his doctor and won'



'My parents work their asses off to give me a good education in the my dream field'


I’m a part time student, already struggling to keep up with the work, my bipolar disorder has decided to take a turn for the worse and I now have Akesthesia due to a bad reaction to Seroquel. Akesthesia means you have uncontrollable muscle movements and shaky hands (which sucks because I’m going for my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration) and is normally irreversible, but I’m lucky because we caught it early on, we’re hoping with lowering the medication that it will decrease the effects.

My mom is stuck in an abusive job, she never finished high school and has a questionable background, she was extremely lucky to land the job that she has had for the past 13 years and she has no chance of finding a job anything like it. Even with her seniority there is no chance of promotion, no chance of leniency for her health problems, and is constantly at the mercy of a mentally unstable boss, lying to make herself look good. This is a privet investment firm, there is no union and no HR center. We’re lower middle class, living from paycheck to paycheck because of my tuition payments. My parents work their asses off to give me a good education in the my dream field, my dad lives in constant fear of being laid off due to having his job moved over seas. I currently can’t work because of my mental illness plus health problems due to asthma, I don’t even trust myself behind the wheel and am forced to use public transportation all over the Bay Area.

We are the 99%


Education was once considered a public good and not a private investment.


I am a college professor increasingly frustrated by the incredible debt I see my students taking on.

Rather than spending their time learning how to creatively solve the problems of the future, their debt forces them to think of education narrowly in terms of “what they can do with it after they graduate.”

Education was once considered a public good and not a private investment.

Education was once considered to be for the 99%.


'I was homeless off and on for 3 1/2 years'


My high school had no Advanced Placement or College Prep courses. I had to drop out of college because I couldn’t afford to work, go to class, and do the required unpaid field placement for my degree. I was homeless off and on for 3 1/2 years living in a storage locker, friends’ couches, the couch in the basement of my job, and in my car. I was employed in low-wage service jobs the whole time.

I have a chronic, progressively debilitating disease that went undiagnosed for 7 years because I didn’t have health insurance. Now that I have health insurance every time I see the doctor I have to pay $300. This is when I am WELL.

I have 80k in student loan debt and by the time I finish my PhD it will likely be 100k, but my salary as a woman in the humanities will average 50k. That is… if I can get a job.

I am 29 years old.

I am the 99%

Brian Stewart is the Communications Director at Generation Progress. You can follow him on Twitter @brianstewart.

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