SALT LAKE CITY — Protesters rallied and marched Thursday, calling for free tuition at public universities, cancellation of all student debt, and implementation of a $15 minimum hourly wage for university employees.
At highest attendance, about 65 people attended the Million Students March outside the University of Utah's A. Ray Olpin Student Union Building.
"Education should not to be a debt sentence," said Dennis Potter, an associate professor of philosophy at Utah Valley University.
The Institute for College Access and Success reports that the national average student debt was $28,950 for the class of 2014, and the The Associated Press has previously reported that student debt can negatively impact families for generations.
Socialist Alternative of the University of Utah, Utah Millennials 4 Bernie Sanders and Revolutionary Students' Union were the primary organizers of the event.
Scott Wood, a Socialist Alternative leader, said the Million Student March is a national movement. Its website, studentmarch.org, boasts more than 110 events nationwide.
"I want attendees feel like they are not alone, that there are students out there who share their concerns," Wood said. "These are ambitious demands, but these demands have been met in other places like Chile."
Samuel Grenny, founder of Utah Millennials 4 Bernie Sanders, said increasing tuition rates and student debt disproportionately affects minorities and the poor.
"The same communities that need (education) the most to gain social mobility in this country are the ones that are being excluded from it based on the system we have," he said.
Grenny said he wants to see all demographics of millennials engage in making a university education free to offer everyone the same social and financial opportunities.
While Grenny acknowledged that education doesn't have historical recognition as a human right, he said that a happy and succesful life in the U.S. relies on access to higher education.
"When we are living in a first-world country that economic success is predicated off of your ability to receive an education, an education needs to be a right for every person in that society in order to create equal opportunity," he said.
Ian Decker of the Revolutionary Students' Union said he believes at minimum a tuition freeze is possible for the University of Utah, citing a tuition freeze enacted by the University of Minnesota.
Chris Larson is a BYU news media major interning with Deseret News. Contact him at email@example.com