Balloons drop to raise student debt awareness


Charlie Coffey/Iowa State Daily

Balloons, some of which contain money, are dropped onto design students waiting below. The balloon drop took place March 4 in the atrium of the College of Design.

Greg Zwiers

Students jostled for a position underneath the vibrant balloons suspended by a net “ceiling” in the atrium of the Design Building, waiting for them to drop and hoping to snag one with a gift card inside.

The balconies were full and the only open space on the ground floor was underneath an overhang as people spilled past the giant staircase.

Students in the Toys! 2015 Studio organized the Make it Rain balloon drop to bring awareness to the rising student debt problem. There were 2,500 balloons that each had pieces of paper with facts about student debt printed on them, such as “2/3 of college students will graduate with student loans.”

The Toys! 2015 Studio is taught by Mitchell Squire, associate professor of architecture. Each semester, the studio gives students the assignment of making a statement through play or wonderment.

“I think it was way more successful than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t think we were going to entice so many people to show up. It was awesome,” said Kelsi Thrasher, senior in architecture.

ISU graduates have $28,880 of debt on average.

Matthew Darmour-Paul, senior in architecture, said student debt is one of the most pressing issues that students face, especially because all of the students in the studio will graduate soon.

“It’s primarily to get discussion started. So much of our role in design is to just talk about things that people aren’t talking about,” Darmour-Paul said. “No solutions were in this project, but just bringing it to the forefront of discussion is our goal.”

The Toys! 2015 Studio used the classwork to create an event that would bring awareness to the amount of student debt ISU graduates have. The students narrowed down their idea to a balloon drop from 40 original ideas.

Students cheered when the net holding back the balloons was dropped. Once the balloons reached the crowd, the room was filled with loud popping.

The net was supposed to represent the debt ceiling, while the information and gift cards in the balloons leaflet propaganda and humanitarian relief dropped during times of war. The balloons themselves represented the buildup of pressure that occurs with student debt until the bubble bursts, such as in modern economic crises, Darmour-Paul said.

Make it Rain was sponsored by 17 local businesses, including Noodles and company, Black Market Pizza and Hy-Vee. Thrasher said the sponsors were all really excited about the project idea.

Thrasher said the course appealed to her because it let her step out of her comfort zone. She said it was nice to get away from the architectural projects she’d been working on for four years.

“There’s such a conceptual side to what we learn and I think this studio lets us expand on that and explore what we want to explore,” Thrasher said.

She said for a lot of students it gives them a chance to find out what else there is other than working in an architecture firm.

Katelin Kremer, undeclared design sophomore, said student debt is is a huge concern for her because she is paying for her own schooling.

“I personally really liked it even though I didn’t get any money. It was quite fun,” Kremer said.

Jacob Spitz, sophomore in landscape architecture, said he is going to leave school with a lot of debt and he is trying not to let it distract him. Spitz thinks a class about student debt from Iowa State would be a good idea.

“I heard that tuition is just going to keep on going up and it’s high enough as it is, but if it keeps on going up, people like me who are providing for themselves won’t be able to go to college and make a living without staying in debt,” Kremer said.

As students filed out, a sea of balloon carcasses and many pieces of crumpled paper littered the ground.