US PIRG Works with House Leaders Pelosi and Miller To Fight Student Loan Debt

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Richard Williams
202-546-9707, ext. 321
rwilliams@pirg.org

US PIRG Works with House Leaders Pelosi and Miller To Fight Student Loan Debt

Student activist Azeen Khanmalek joins national leaders in calling for increased grant aid

WASHINGTON - On Tuesday, the U.S. Public Interest Research Group joined House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Education and Workforce chairman, Congressman
George Miller, and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan to rally
in anticipation of the passage of HR 3221, the massive student aid bill pending
in the House that is slated for a vote this week. 

Surrounded by students from area colleges, Congressman Miller stated: "The
Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act,
H.R. 3221
, will give us the opportunity to make historic -- and
necessary investments -- in grants and other aid to help more students graduate
from college with less debt. It will help us transform our student aid programs
so that they finally operate in the best interests of students -- not banks --
and rebuild an economy where every student has a fair shot at the American
Dream."

H.R. 3221 is the largest investment in student aid in history.  It diverts
$40 billion dollars away from banks that receive a massive subsidy to lend to
students and toward students in the form of steadily increase Pell grant
aid.  

“The number of students graduating with over $25,000 in loan debt has
increased five-fold in the past twelve years.  Increasing grant aid at the
level contained in this bill will lower student reliance on loans to pay for
college. This is a profound investment,” noted Richard Williams, U.S. PIRG Higher Education Associate,
who was present at the rally.

The U.S.PIRG
Higher Education Project
, on behalf of the campus chapters of PIRG
across the country, has engaged tens of thousands of students and borrowers in
legislative efforts to make student loan debt more manageable through lowering
interest rates on loans and creating generous loan repayment options.

Also on Tuesday, U.S. PIRG coordinated a telephone press conference featuring
the Congressman specifically for college journalists to outreach to their
campuses. 

Azeen Khanmalek, a student volunteer involved with PIRG at University of
Massachusetts at Amherst, spoke on the call, explaining to reporters that he
would be $85,000 in debt when he graduates in May. 

“Student loan debt is a big barrier for graduates because it stops us
from pursuing our dreams.  Students should be able to pay for college
without a huge debt burden,” Khanmalek said.

On Wednesday, Khanmalek and other student volunteers at campus PIRG chapters
are building “walls of debt” to symbolize the obstacle graduates
face when they graduate with heavy loan debt burden.   The walls will
be built with paper ‘bricks’ that will feature the debt level of
individual student signers and will be delivered to local congressional
offices.

In cyberspace, U.S. PIRG, together with the United States Student Association and Campus Progress,
are emailing over 100,000 young adults to ask them to sign a “Wall of Debt
on the web. U.S PIRG has also created 50 Facebook pages, one for each state,
which together have nearly 35,000 members who will be asked to
participate. 

Organizers anticipate at least 10,000 students from across the country to join
in the action to help pass H.R. 3221. 

###

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

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