Student body presidents urge political leaders to reach compromise on debt debate


On Thursday, another group joined the call: college student government presidents.

A coalition of more than 100 student leaders who represent nearly 2 million college students sent a letter to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other political leaders Thursday, urging them to “find the courage to lead.” They have also launched a social media campaign around the slogan, “Do We Have a Deal Yet?”

The letter does not offer any solution to the political impasse. Instead, the student leaders urge political leaders to put aside “pledges, partisanship and pettiness” to reach a deal that raises the debt ceiling and addresses the nation’s mounting debt.

“Our country was a country founded on compromise and shared sacrifice,”said Mike Meaney, Georgetown University student association president, at a news conference at the National Press Club.

The letter does not mention the federal Pell grant program, which helps millions of the country’s poorest students attend college. Some Republicans have proposed cutting the program by capping the maximum amount of money a student can receive or narrowing eligibility. Meanwhile, university presidents and education advocates have fought to keep the program intact.

Some signers of the letter said they were willing to take their share of the pain by accepting cuts to education spending, including Pell grants, as part of a larger compromise.

“I value education and think everybody here does,” said Kaveh Sadeghian, student president of The College of William and Mary, gesturing to the other students. “But that is exactly the type of thinking – the individual agendas – that we are advocating against.”

The idea for the letter and campaign came about during a late-night bus ride in Georgetown last week. Meaney, another Georgetown student and a recent graduate realized college students needed a voice in the debt ceiling debate. Since then, the group has recruited 120 student body presidents to sign the letter they drafted. They also rented a room at the National Press Club, which the students are paying for themselves.

The students planned to deliver copies of the letter later Thursday. They hope lawmakers will listen because their generation will “bear the impact”of whatever decision is made, said Tanay Tatum, the student body president of Vassar College in New York.

Several student presidents have also filmed YouTube videos of their message. Grant Cochran, student government president at the University of Alabama, ends his video address with this message: “I know that through working together we can create something positive for the American people. We are the future. And our future is in your hands.”

What are students on your campus saying about the debt ceiling debate? Do you agree with students leaders who say Pell grants may need to be cut to reach a compromise?

UPDATE: This blog post has been changed since it was originally published to clarify that the student leaders did not take a stance on education spending cuts in their formal letter.

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