Students organize rally against debt


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A group of University of Iowa students is reacting to comments from University of Iowa President Sally Mason and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, saying they believe officials do not understand today’s student debt.

“Student debt is becoming a greater burden for a greater number of people now,” said Melissa Zimdars, a graduate fellow in the UI Communication Studies Department.

Zimdars is an organizer for the event, Iowa City Rally Against Student Debt, which will be held Oct. 22 on the Pentacrest in hopes the UI will make a change in regards to debt.

The date of the rally coincides with the state Board of Regents meeting being held in Iowa City.
According to the National Project for Student Debt, in 2012, total debt for students at the UI averaged around $29,000.

Zimdars said what really ignited the event was previous remarks about “lifestyle debt” by Mason.

Mason referenced lifestyle debt in a Nov. 20, 2013, question and answer session with The Daily Iowan, explaining the difference between need-based debt and lifestyle debt as “what you really need to go to college versus what you feel you want to be able to go to college.”

Zimdars said the group is reacting to recent comments from Mason echoing the earlier statement because Zimdars said based on how some students are living, Mason’s view isn’t fair.

She said what the rallying students want is support from UI administrators so that tuition rates don’t increase any more.

Branstad said in September that he believed the regents were working toward a modest 1.7 percent raise in tuition.

UI spokesman Tom Moore said the university is deeply committed to reducing student debt to the greatest potential possible.

“We could not agree more with organizers that this is an issue we can keep working on,” he said. “ And the University of Iowa has a strong track record of working to reduce student debt.”

Moore referenced programs such as the Summer Hawk Tuition Grant, which allows in-state students free summer classes, the 2+2 program with Iowa community colleges, which enables students to transfer to the UI after two years of community college while also ensuring a four-year graduation, and increased four-year graduation rates as efforts the UI is doing to aid student debt.

UI sophomore Peyton Tumey said debt is a huge concern for her.

“I’m always worried that I won’t end up with a great paying job and won’t be able to pay back my student loans, ultimately, leaving me with more debt,” she said.

UI senior Kelsey Walsh said despite transferring from Kirkwood to the UI and working up to 30 hours per week, she has still had to take out student loans.

“I don’t lose sleep over the idea of student debt, but it does cross my mind at times,” she said. “My main concern is having a harder time than I expected finding a job and struggling to make my loan payments.”

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