As seniors are taking pictures for the student yearbook, California Student Public Interest Research Group is recruiting students to take pictures for a yearbook of their own, replacing the cap and gown with a simple whiteboard reading a number ranging from 10,000 to 150,000.
The Student Debt Yearbook is program organized by CalPIRG for universities all over the nation in which students take a picture with their expected student debt and send it to Washington D.C. in hopes of lowering interest rates on student loans.
‘It makes a bigger impact on [lawmakers] because they see the faces. It’s saying, ‘Hey these are the people you’re affecting,” said first-year biological sciences major Briana Kolbe. ‘We are really trying to push for that bill to pass in the Senate right now so the interest rate will lower down to 3.4 percent. In events like these, we are trying to just put it out there so that everyone is aware and maybe the constituency will be more motivated.’
UC Irvine students have been responsive to the program, as student debt is an issue that affects many students on campus. CalPIRG reports that nearly two-thirds of all graduates of four-year colleges are in debt from student loans and the number of students who have graduated with more than $25,000 in debt has tripled since the 1990s.
‘Students simply do not have the money to pay for college. Many of my friends are forced to find a job while being a full-time student,’ said fourth-year chemical engineering student Nicholas Potter, who expects to be in $80,000 worth of debt.
The amount of debt that UCI students estimated ranged from $10,000 to as much as $600,000, mostly in the $50,000 range.
‘This is important because it saves us money. But we are also trying to make college students aware because they are often apathetic to things. It’s kind of like, maybe you don’t really care about what’s going on in Iraq but you should at least care about what your situation is. We are trying to get people to relate,’ Kolbe said.
The Student Debt Yearbook is just one project supporting CalPIRG’s ongoing fight for Congress to pass the Student Relief Act (H.R. 5), which would lower Stafford student loan interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over a five-year period.
House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) introduced the bill. Almost half of the House, 209 of the 435 members, co-sponsored the bill, though none of the co-sponsors were Republican.