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House Dems laud accomplishments for students

BY ALLIE JOHNSON | MARCH 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said health-care reform and improvements to the student-loan system have put millions of students in college.

In the view of Loebsack and two other Democratic representatives who spoke during a conference call Tuesday morning, the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act is one of their biggest accomplishments.

“I wouldn’t be here today without the high-quality education in Iowa,” Loebsack said. “And our best, our brightest students will be able to get an education and reach their full potential.”

But University of Iowa political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said the conference call was mainly a way for the politicians to “pat themselves on the back.”

“This is a kind of way to try to let folks know, ‘This isn’t as bad as it seems,’ ” he said. “We have some victories and some defeats, that’s the politics in all of this.”

Under the act’s provision, young adults can be covered by their parents’ health insurance until age 26. The previous cut-off was 19.

This extension will help students lighten their load financially when they come out of college looking for jobs, said Rep. George Miller, D-California.

“We are celebrating making health care [and student loans] available and affordable as institutions raise their fees,” he said.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he agrees more people are covered by the health-care changes, but that Democrats should take other facets of student financial struggles into consideration.

Instead, he said, he’s focusing on trying to get students in and out of college in four years. Forristall graduated from the UI in four and a half years with a master’s degree, something he said helped him cut back on student-loan debt.

“I would like to see that happening again, getting your education in a rapid manner,” Forristall said.

Despite the health-insurance provision, UI junior David Velasquez said he thinks most students are still struggling.

Velasquez, 28, who is not eligible for the health-insurance provision, said he is struggling financially every day.

Velasquez said he has an insurance plan through the university, but it has hardly covered his two hospital visits and vaccinations required by the university before enrollment.

“I’d love to be under my parents’ health insurance plan,” he said.

Kevin Leicht, the director of the UI Social Science Research Center, said he thinks, by-and-large, the provision is a positive move, but he is worried about possible ramifications.

Leicht said employers may assume graduates under 26 can get health insurance on their parents’ policies and not offer them the right benefits.

“We could end up seeing entry-level jobs,” he said.

For UI junior Kacie Cysewski’s family, however, the provision has helped. Her 25-year-old brother is able to remain under their parents’ health-insurance plan. Without that option, she said, they would be struggling.

“Until he gets a full-blown career, it helps us as a family to get full coverage and a better plan,” she said.


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