A trillion dollars of student debt: 1 T Day

April 25 marked “1 T Day”, which is the National Day of Action “commemorating the one year anniversary of student loan debt hitting over 1 trillion dollars on April 25, 2012 with the launch of “A People’s Investigation of Sallie Mae,” according to the 1 T Day Tumblr blog. Joy Hoang, OSLA organizing director, put together a Day of Service for BC students on Wednesday, April 23 and Thursday April 24 in the cafeteria to address student debt.
Student debt has become an ongoing crisis for those students needing to take out loans for their educational costs. This debt has accrued within the last 30 years and surpassed one trillion dollars two years ago. The Office of Student Legislative Affairs is working to make students at Bellevue College become aware of what lies ahead for them if they need tuition assistance. Loan debt cannot be forgiven even if the debtor dies; the amount owed will get transferred to the co-signer or spouse. The loan companies can also garnish wages to collect what they are owed.
Hoang and her team of volunteers were helping students become aware of what their message was: “We are trying to send letters to our congressmen about student debt and our concerns about how much money we accrue just to obtain higher education.” For this region, these letters will be sent to Congressman Adam Smith.
According to Hoang, one of the goals of sending these prewritten letters is accessibility and affordability for higher education and the debt so that congressmen can help make colleges find another way for student loans instead of having a contract with Sallie Mae. Another thing that OSLA was helping students with was voter registration.
Tam Nguyen, one of the volunteers was at the table getting signatures, says that there were quite a lot of students that came up to sign the electronic petition. “Education is a very important issue, and I want awareness,” says Nguyen.
Nguyen, who is a psychology major and hopes to transfer to Eastern Washington University, says that if she were able to give Congressman Smith a message it would simply that education is “a tool for young people” and that she would like Congressman Smith to consider helping students with the debt crisis so that “we can have the best advantage.”
Freezing tuition or bringing down the cost and finding other means to make higher learning more affordable for students are just a few things Hoang wants to achieve. “We put pressure on the congressmen to evoke
change and let them know that we are students and we will voice our thoughts. They have the power, and we are hoping that they’ll be concerned about the students,” says Hoang.
In her eyes as a student, Hoang, who is graduating this spring and hopes to get into the University of Washington, wants a lower interest on loans as well as a restructured financial aid system and an explanation of how that process works. The goal is to make college accessible so students don’t have to work 2-3 jobs with a full load of classes and homework. “I know that what we have been doing probably won’t change [things] overnight because its years and years of doing advocacy work, I don’t think I [will] reap the benefits of my work and the workofotherstudents,but it’sstillgratifyingknowing that I’m fighting for the same cause and the greater good of the students.”
Brandon Lueken, OSLA adviser, says that one of the top complaints from students has been how to get financial aid and that students aren’t being helped on the issue of aid.
“Financial aid is this huge issue for us on campus. … We are trying to raise awareness on student loan debt and that there are other options, but … students should continue to fight with legislative needs and work with the college to ensure that their financial needs are met and [they] become aware of high interest loans.”
Lueken, who is still paying his student loan debt off after receiving his master’s degree in 2012 from Seattle University, says that this topic is “very near and dear to my heart.”
As a student it’s not just tuition that’s paid for, but also extra lab fees for some classes, special equipment such as calculators or art equipment, books, parking passes and bus cards. OSLA is looking into seeing how much a standard student pays for school.
If Congressman Smith gets all these emails from students and helps to back the tuition issue, Lueken says he would like to invite him to campus for a day and have a special day just for him to thank him._DSC0180