Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an event at the White House to see President Obama make a statement about student loan debt. My invitation to the White House occurred because I reached out to the organization, Campus Progress, and volunteered to work at their Student Debt Day. By volunteering, I was given the opportunity, along with other student interns, to go to Capitol Hill and advocate on behalf of a cause that impacts the lives of many students in this country-student loan debt. The focus of the advocacy day was to speak against the July 1st deadline to increase the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford Loans from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. If the rate increase had passed, it will would have impacted about 7.4 million students around the country who depend on the Stafford student loan to help pay for their college and graduate education. On average, students will have to pay an additional $1000 for the same loan.
We were pleased when on Friday, June 29, Congress passed an extension of the low interest rate on government-subsidized student loans, just days before the rate would have doubled. The measure was included in a transportation bill and extends the current 3.4 percent student loan rate for one more year at a cost of an estimated $6 billion. The measure was sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. The House and Senate approved the deal (as a piece of an overall transportation funding bill).
All social work students and professional social workers should consider volunteering and advocating for a cause they care about. With an issue like educational debt, social workers can only serve their clients if they are able to pay off their educational debt, and make comparable salaries, which are key components of the Social Work Reinvestment Initiative http://www.socialworkreinvestment.org/. So often, as interns, we believe that we need to know certain people to be able to attend events such as the one on Capitol Hill or at the White House and have an impact on policy making. However, by being proactive and organizing, all social workers and students can have their voice heard on issues of importance to our profession.
Read more about the NASW Code of Ethics http://socialworkers.org/pubs/code/default.asp, which outlines the obligation of social workers to engage in social and political action and to learn more about advocacy opportunities for students, particularly on educational debt, visit www.campusprogress.org/<http://www.campusprogress.org/.
This post was written by an NASW MSW intern.