Degrees Not Debt campaign strives to combat student loan debt
It seems like there are countless groups on campus trying to get students to sign petitions for causes unrelated to them. But the National Education Association’s newest campaign on campus has everything to do with students.
The NEA, a teachers' union, is focusing on advocacy this fall. Its newest campaign is called Degrees Not Debt and focuses on student loan debt and the action to be taken by Congress.
Susan Stancampiano, field organizer for the NEA, said The Higher Education Act is being reauthorized this fall and the campaign is petitioning for provisions on the act.
“It’s reauthorized every few years and we have goals that include expanding the student aid bill of rights, which is if you have to take out student loans,” Stancampiano said. “It’s (the) certain rights that are pretty common sense that are guaranteed for the students that have to take out those loans that they know what they’re getting themselves into and provided proper education on the loans.”
Stancampiano said the campaign is also petitioning for more grant money to be included in the act.
“The cost of college has continued to rise and every time Higher Education Act has been reauthorized they’ve taken out a decent chunk of money that was given to students,” she said.
The current petition, which has more than 2,000 signatures, will be a letter sent to MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon asking to have a meeting to talk about campaign and ask for her support.
The Degrees Not Debt campaign started nationally last year but only came to MSU this fall. Intern Jackie Zarzycki said her campaign group, consisting of five core interns and multiple volunteers, works by petitioning, making phone calls, contacting media and coalition building.
Zarzycki, an environmental economics and policy sophomore, said there are many opportunities to get involved.
“The first way to get involved is to sign the petition,” Zarzycki said. “That just shows your support for the campaign.”
Students can also volunteer or like the Facebook page to get updates and see volunteer opportunities.
French freshman Riley George volunteers with the Degrees Not Debt campaign. He said he was asked to sign the petition while on campus one day, and the next day the called and asked him to volunteer.
“I think it’s a really worthwhile cause — I go and do what I can when I can,” George said. “Normally I petition or brainstorm ideas to get our message out there, just to gain support or awareness.”
He said he thinks the campaign is important to him because student loan debt is an issue he cares about and wants to help the cause in any way he can.
“Student debt was a big influence about where I went to school and I still think about it when I buy anything and when planning my future,” George said. “I thought trying to make some change is definitely something good. If I can be apart of that change, then it’s definitely worthwhile.”