Milwaukee Youth Council speak out on student loans

At the May 25 news conference at UWM were (from left): Milwaukee County Supervisor David Bowen; Alderman Nik Kovac; Milwaukee County Supervisor Nikiya Harris; Youth Council member Francis Klein; Youth Council member Kayla Schmeling; Youth Council President Zach Komes; Youth Council member Gabriella Leachmon; Sen. Lena Taylor; Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs; and Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr.

The City of Milwaukee Youth Council held a news conference on Friday, May 25 at Spaights Plaza at UW-Milwaukee to urge the Wisconsin federal delegation to extend student loan interest rates at the current 3.4 percent level. If Congress does not act by July 1, 2012, the interest rate on federal loans will jump to 6.8 percent, costing college students an average of $1,000 extra per year.

The news conference included members of the Youth Council, Common Council President Willie L. Hines, Jr., and representatives from UWM student government. Other local and state elected officials (including members of the Common Council) also took part.

“Affordable college education is not only important for molding future teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, physicians and professionals, but also for our city’s economic prosperity and growth,” said Zach Komes, Youth Council president.

“If Congress does not act, the July 1st interest rate increases will directly impact future Wisconsin college students. The Youth Council looks forward to working with local elected leaders and members of the community to persuade our federal representatives to do the right thing,” Zach said.

At its May 9 regular meeting, the Youth Council unanimously approved file #1110 to lobby the U.S. Congress on this issue. Alderman Davis, founder of the Youth Council, introduced a similar resolution on Tuesday, May 22. The Common Council unanimously approved the resolution (file# 120154) urging Congress to pass federal legislation limiting Student Loan interest rates, creating new loan forgiveness provisions, and converting some borrowers’ private loans to federal loans.

Below is an editorial piece submitted through the Youth Council addressing the impact of student loans:

On May 4, I, along with nearly 400 fellow students, graduated from Rufus King High School. The event was spectacular; cheering families, teachers, and community members proudly boasted their pride in our students. We live in a society that values college education and, these days, the question that’s asked after high school graduation is: “Where are you going to college?” The grim reality, though, is that college costs are rapidly increasing and workforce competition means that the average worker needs to get a basic college education.

Students, especially those who are low-income, need support from our elected leaders to attend college. The federal government in 2007 rapidly increased Pell Grants and lowered the interest rate on Stafford Loans to 3.4%. However, if Congress does not act by July 1, 2012, these interest rates will DOUBLE to 6.8%, costing the average student an extra $1,000 per year on their federal loan. More than 10 million students each year use subsidized Stafford loans to help pay for college. With rising tuition costs, attending college is already difficult for many students and the increase in interest rates would put a college education out of reach for many people.

The City of Milwaukee Youth Council and the Milwaukee Common Council both passed legislation urging the Wisconsin delegation in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to pass S. 2343 and HR 4170 (federal legislation limiting student loan interest rates, creating new loan forgiveness provisions, and converting some borrowers’ private loans to federal loans). Both bodies understand that this federal issue directly affects students in Milwaukee. College education is not only important for molding future teachers, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, physicians and professionals, but also for our city’s economic prosperity and growth. Milwaukee is at a crossroads: with unemployment rates sky high, especially in the central city, we need to provide as many solutions as possible to make a difference. This issue is one of those issues. We need our federal officials to put partisan gridlock aside and stand up for students and our communities. Congress needs to hear us loud and clear: Don’t Raise Our Rates. I urge members of our community to lobby our federal officials and let them know how this interest rate hike will directly affect Milwaukee and Milwaukee students. You can download a petition to circulate on the Youth Council’s website at http://city.milwaukee.gov/youthcouncil or from our Facebook/Twitter pages.

This time of year in our nation there are thousands of high school graduations. Hundreds of thousands of students are getting ready to attend college. Let’s do whatever we can to make sure we are supporting these students’ futures, instead of making them more difficult to attain.

Zach Kome,
President/Member (District 10)
City of Milwaukee Youth Council
1836 North Hi Mount Blvd.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53208