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UI medical student's proposal for loans makes headway with legislators

BY LAUREN COFFEY | FEBRUARY 22, 2013 5:00 AM

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In an economy still struggling, many students find it difficult to pay for college. Freezing tuition has been one of the many discussed items to help alleviate the cost of attending a university.

One man has his own idea to help change the system.

Shady Henien, a fourth-year University of Iowa medical student and president of the Carver College of Medicine Student Government, hopes to create a new loan system — called Invest in a Medical Student’s Tuition Program — for medical students in order to cut financial costs. Private investors would put money in a fund, and all medical students, regardless of their concentration, would be able to apply for the loans similar to Free Application for Federal Student Aid forms.

Henien wants to start locally, then eventually expand his initiative to other UI colleges before going nationwide.

The loan received from the private investors would differ from a bank loan in the interest rate attached to the loan. Henien said the goal would be to have half of the interest rate the bank would offer. Currently, most loans for school come with an interest rate of 6.8 percent. Using his system, the student would have the loan with an interest of 3.4 percent.

“Every student is concerned with debt going over your head,” Henien said. “This can help many students in need. It’s just common sense.”

He is presenting the idea to local and national officials. In February, he visited Washington, D.C., and approached members of Congress to gauge their opinions on the proposal. All of the lawmakerss he talked to, including Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, liked the idea.

The proposal originally came to Henien three years ago, and he has worked to develop it with many UI faculty members.

Cathy Zaharis, the business director of the UI Finance Carrer Academy and an adjunct lecturer in the Tippie School of Management, worked with Henien in January to help the business aspect he needed to appeal to investors.

“We talked about a way to approach the investor,” Zaharis said. “The investors have a different perspective than a college student. We also talked about the difference between a loan and a scholarship, more technical issues. I was impressed with him; he had bought a finance book to teach himself about loans. I told him he missed his calling and should have gone into business instead of being a doctor.”

Henien also spoke briefly with UI President Sally Mason, who he said supported the proposal. UI spokesman Tom Moore said that while the idea is interesting, it needs to include more details.

“This is an intriguing idea, but we have only had a brief conversation with him about it and suggested the infrastructure component needs to be fleshed out more before the proposal can be evaluated,” Moore wrote in an email. “We are committed to doing all we can to reduce the debt occurred by our graduates.”

The ultimate goal for Henien would be to get a bill passed allowing his new program, which may take some time. Henien will graduate from medical school this spring, but he still plans to be involved in the process of furthering the proposal. The proposal is through the Carver College of Medicine, so the student government will handle it.

“I’m always accessible, and I made that very clear,” he said. “I’m also very politically active and have made contacts. I will stay active until this is done. I’ve been working on it for three years; I’d love to see it go through.”


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