The Student Campaign in Events and Pictures
In the spring of 2005, Congress cut the student loan program by $12 billion dollars, forcing interest rates on loans to go higher and making college dangerously expensive. Students at UConn and at hundreds of campuses across the country fought the cuts, but we lost narrowly.
Margaret Spellings, the US Secretary of Education, launched the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Fall 2005 to determine a national strategy for college affordability. Students began education and media events on campus to call attention to the rising student loan debt which students shoulder. A total of 60 students attended the first Commission on the Future of Higher Education public hearing in Seattle on February 7, 2006 and the second hearing in Boston on March 20, 2006. Throughout the effort, 1000 members of the academic community signed postcards to the Commission on the issue and 20 campuses formed community task forces to solve the problems facing their own campus, with over 200 participants.
In early April 2006, the student PIRGs released“Paying Back Not Giving Back: The Negative Impact of Student Debt on Public Interest Careers”across the country. Students in Maine and Wisconsin held press events to release the report, as well at 15 other campuses.
Petitioning events continued in places like California; and thousands of students at hundreds of campuses where photographed for the on-line student debt yearbook to build an effective educational tool for decision makers and the media about the personal impacts of loan debt.
On April 6 and 7, students from Indiana, Ohio and Missouri attended the fourth Commission meeting in Indianapolis, holding a press conference of their own, and lobbying commission members with the results of their loan debt task forces.
In May, the fifth meeting in Washington DC gave students from California a prime opportunity to discuss their task force findings with the Commissioners. The final Commission report supported the premise that higher education is becoming increasingly unaffordable for students, concluding that “Too many students are either discouraged from attending college by rising costs, or take on worrisome debt burdens in order to do so.” In response, the Department of Education agreed to hear concerns regarding loan debt and college affordability in their public hearing process. Meanwhile the press conferences continued throughout the summer, with students in New Hampshire hamming it up for the camera.
The public hearing and comment process began in Berkeley on October 19, where 25 students testified and got a one on one chance to discuss the five point plan for manageable debt with Department officials. In Chicago, the force continued with 30 students attending, testifying, being interviewed by the media, and hamming it up for the camera.
In New Mexico, one student met Margaret Spellings herself to discuss the five point plan.
Index of Photos
UConn Simmons Press Conference
Seattle Press Conference
Boston Press Conference
Petitioning in California
Maine Press Conference
Wisconsin Press Conference
Student Debt Yearbook
Indiana Press Conference
Lobbying in DC
New Hampshire Press Conference
Students Testify Before the Department of Education
A total of 60 students attended the first Commission on the Future of Higher Education public hearing in Seattle on February 7, 2006 and the second hearing in Boston on March 20, 2006.