CU Student Government President of Student Affairs Chris Schaefbauer and Graduate School Co-Senator Kelsey Cody spent last Tuesday advocating on behalf of students in the Denver offices of US Senators Bennet and Udall and the Boulder office of US Congressman Polis. The primary topic of discussion was the impending doubling of rates on Subsidized Stafford loans from 3.4% to 6.8%, or the same level as Unsubsidized Stafford loans. The student representatives presented staff with letters from the CUSG Executives (pdf link) and the UGGS Executive Officers (pdf link) as well as a resolution passed by the CUSG Legislative Council (pdf link) outlining policy recommendations and explaining their rationale. The meetings were an opportunity for students and Congress to better understand each other and develop ongoing relationships over issues of importance to students, such as college affordability, degree completion times, Open Access, and MOOCs.
All of the meetings occurred with members of the Colorado Congressional Delegation which represent the CU Boulder Campus, all Democrats, and all staffers produced ample evidence that the legislators were working diligently to keep student loan interest rates low. Senator Udall has recently come out in favor of keeping rates from doubling (http://www.markudall.senate.gov/?p=blog&id=3504) and put put out a call for testimonials (http://www.markudall.senate.gov/?p=form&id=82); Senator Bennet is on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee and has been actively involved in working with student leaders in Colorado to keep rates low (http://www.bennet.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/bennet-joins-cu-denv...); and Representative Polis has co-sponsored half a dozen bipartisan bills, include the ExCEL Act (http://polis.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=331536) which has some innovative ideas for repayment but is troubling due to its rate structure.
To broaden the impact of students and increase the likelihood of keeping rates low and predictable, Congressional staff encouraged both undergraduate and graduate students to reach out to their families in other districts and states or to use their own permanent address to write, call, or visit their congressperson about the issue of student loan rates and college affordability. Of course, contacting the offices of Senator Bennet (http://www.bennet.senate.gov/contact/) and Udall (http://www.markudall.senate.gov/?p=contact_us) and Representative Polis (http://polis.house.gov/contact/) was also encouraged; all staffers wanted to hear more testimonials and ideas for simple and sound changes to financial aid programs. Some useful statistics and background can be found here (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/06/student-loan-debt-charts) here (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/student-loan-interest-rate-p...) and here (http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h15/data.htm).
CUSG and UGGS also want to hear feedback on the documents submitted to Congressional staff linked above, especially the ExCEL Act, a summary of which can be found here (pdf link). Please feel free to send any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns to Chris Schaefbauer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kelsey Cody (email@example.com), and they will incorporate them into their discussions in the future.