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Students call for debt awareness

Degrees Not Debt is looking to improve education about student loans.

A new organization at Temple is asking for President Theobald to continue his efforts in fighting student debt.

Degrees Not Debt—a nationwide campaign introduced last year by the National Education Association—is attempting to convince Theobald to send a letter to the congressional delegation of Pennsylvania, with attempts to support the student aid bill of rights and provide effective loan counseling at Temple.

One of the biggest issues is convincing people there is a problem, said volunteer and sophomore sociology major Justis Freeman.

“You hear parents say, ‘I had nothing and now look at where I’m at,’” Freeman said. “But for us, it’s like, we’re 40 grand in the hole, and then we get to nothing, and then rise.”

Degrees Not Debt currently has 1,100 campuses across the nation with 50,000 student members. Two weeks ago, the group started at Temple under the leadership of Angel Ye, the Campus Organizer for Pennsylvania’s chapter, the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

Ye said the main goal of the organization is to further educate people about their loan options.

“We want at least, for people that have borrowed money, to have quality loan counseling,” Ye said. “So that they learn about income-driven repayment programs, [and] public service loan forgiveness programs, so they can take advantage of those programs.”

In two weeks, the group has collected 700 out of 2,000 petition signatures to introduce it to Theobald by Sept. 4. Ye said although she isn’t a student, the problem is still important for every college student.

“When I was an undergraduate one of my best friends from college, Aisha, dropped out of school in the middle of her senior honors project because her mom passed away,” Ye said. “She couldn’t continue because she can’t pay for college … and now-a-days, it’s so hard to get ahead in society without a college degree, but then college education is so expensive, it’s hurting a lot of people,” Ye said.

The Degrees Not Debt program has differences at each university chapter, but holds a strong tactic on raising awareness about the issue at a federal level.

“It’s something that we hope to see with the presidential election coming up, that there is a focus around that prospect of higher education,” said Chelsey Herigg, NEA student program chair. “Students in college deserve better. We’re hoping that what we are doing at the national level will turn that focus during the presidential race.”

The NEA focuses on organizing advocators to try and engage about 42 million loan borrowers in the United States to support legislation such as the Bank on Student Loans Bill, which failed by two votes in Congress. This program sought to refinance student loans like house or car loans.

“It needs to be fixed,” Herrig said. “While there hasn’t been a complete agreement on how to fix it we have seen several bills come through Congress that have been intended to make it easier for students to pursue college without being burden with a large amount of debt.”

Most of the volunteers in Temple’s chapter hold a personal financial experience.

“For me it’s so frustrating when you have a passion and a drive … and still not being able to make it,” said volunteer Mary Craighead, a junior public health major.

Others seek to help bring down the $1.2 trillion debt in the nation, which Herrig said is a greater amount than credit card debt.

Ye said the job of fighting the issue is far from finished.

“We’re trying to get universities like Temple, and also other big university across the nation to send the message to their congressional delegation to support,” she said.

Maryvic Perez can be reached at maryvic.perez@temple.edu.

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