GUSA executive set to present intercollegiate petition to Congress for student loans
On July 1, federal Stafford loan interest rates will double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, unless Congress acts before then to change the deadline. GUSA President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) have worked on urging Congress to extend this deadline. After attending President Obama’s speech (pictured at left) and calling on Congress to stop the loan rate hike, the GUSA executive has started a broad effort to petition Congress to stop the federal student loan interest rates from doubling at the start of July.
Tisa believes that higher student loan interest rates will not only put a greater financial burden on students but will compromise diversity at Georgetown, which was a key focus of his GUSA campaign last spring.
“[The loan rate hike] affects students who have the most financial need. It plays into the socioeconomic diversity of college campuses,” Tisa said. “I think, a lot of times at Georgetown, people forget that there are a lot of hidden costs to college, and going to college is not a given or something that’s easy for many students.”
President John DeGioia has also chimed in about the dangers of the loan rate hike. “This is not the time to create additional barriers to pursuing higher education,” DeGioia said on American University Radio on Sunday. “We have a responsibility to protect our young. We also have a responsibility to ensure they have every opportunity to thrive, to realize the American dream.”
For inspiration on how to tackle the issue, Tisa looked back at the “Do We Have a Deal Yet?” campaign of 2011-2012 GUSA President Mike Meaney (SFS ’12), which similarly gathered the signatures of student body presidents from around the country and petitioned Congress to raise the debt ceiling.
Although GUSA’s usual M.O. is pleading with people who don’t have to listen to it, Tisa acknowledges that it is still unusual for an organization like GUSA to be petitioning the highest law-making body in the U.S. to do anything but feels that this issue must be addressed. “In general, I don’t think GUSA has a part to play in political debates; we are here to serve students,” he said. “But I think that, in this particular instance, it’s very important to serve students in this way.”
Much of Tisa’s focus on the petition effort has gone into securing the collaboration of other student body presidents on the issue. “About three or four weeks ago we started getting in touch with student governments across the country,” Tisa said. “Right now, we’ve secured 108 signatures representing student bodies from nearly every state, representing a total of well over a million students.”
Outreach to more student body governments is ongoing, but, with the July 1 deadline fast approaching, Tisa believes that presenting the petition to Congress very soon is important.
In addition to the student government petition, GUSA has an online petition up, that can be signed by anyone, with 208 signatures on it.
Tisa has high hopes that his efforts this summer will help form a stable coalition of college student governments that can work together in the future to advocate on issues like student debt rate hikes. Tisa said that he has been working with the National Collegiate Leadership Conference for just such a purpose.
“What’s unfortunate is that the student debt issue is not a one-and-done thing. It’s an issue that has a lot of faces and it’s going to need to be dealt with in the long-term,” Tisa said. “This coalition that we’re building is going to continue in the future.”