Student leaders at UI, nationwide join forces to oppose loan increase


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With a deadline nearing for Congress to act on student-loan interest rates, student presidents across the country are coming together to lobby for immediate action.

The interest rates on federal student loans are set to double from 3.4 to 6.8 percent on July 1 if Congress doesn't act to extend the rate cut for at least another year. So far, no action has been taken.

"Unfortunately, both sides still kind of are figuring out how they want to pay for it," said Nic Pottebaum, the University of Iowa Student Government president.

With July 1 less than a month away, Pottebaum signed on to become a member of the National Campus Leadership Council — an organization started roughly a year ago to facilitate communication among college students regarding federal policy. Members of the council are student leaders who represent more than 250 college campuses nationwide.

The council has written an open letter on student debt and the negative effect of the interest rate increase on student borrowers.

"… I think more can be done; it's just time will tell in terms of the discussions we have on the hill as well as the influence that we're taking as student leaders," Pottebaum said.

Andy MacCracken, the associate director of National Campus Leadership Council, said he is proud such a basic medium has been able to reach policymakers and represent 250 student presidents and more than 3 million students across the country.

Federal loans represented 93 percent of the total student loans undergraduates at the UI borrowed during the 2010-11 school year, said UI Student Financial Aid Director Mark Warner.

Former UISG President Elliot Higgins became aware of the National Campus Leadership Council after communicating with former University of Nebraska-Lincoln Student Government President Emily Schlichting, who was instrumental in the formation of the group.

As Pottebaum took over the reins from Higgins, he wanted to continue efforts Higgins started when the current student-loan issue arose.

Before its involvement with the council, the UI worked with other members of the Big Ten to lobby for students' rights.

The Association of Big Ten Students meets every six months to discuss common initiatives in the conference and share information among their student-government organizations.

Eric Kamler — the current student-government president at Nebraska — said ongoing communication and cooperation between student leaders are the best ways to accomplish their goals.

"It makes a world of difference — the message becomes clearer, and the voice is louder," he said. "The lawmakers in Washington can see we are united to accomplish a common goal."

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he is impressed with student efforts in the state Board of Regents' universities to put a face to the student-loan issue, and he hopes their efforts will not go unnoticed.

"I know the value of the loan and more importantly, the need," he said, noting his past as a student borrower. "I am disappointed an agreement [in Congress] has not been made yet."

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