Patrick Cho ’13 and Brian Klosterboer ’12 discuss higher education affordability with Pres. Barack Obama
Brian Klosterboer ’12, Centre’s incumbent Student Government Association (SGA) president, and his SGA successor, Patrick Cho ’13, recently sat in on a conference call with another president—namely, the President of the United States.
Cho and Klosterboer were invited to participate in the conversation with President Obama on Monday, May 7. Other student government presidents, elected officials and political figures from across the nation also participated, including David Agnew, White House director of intergovernmental affairs; Valerie Jarrett, president of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs; Mayor Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans; Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati; Cecelia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts; Governor Bev Perdue of North Carolina; and Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois.
“Obama was originally supposed to come to the National Campus Leadership Council Summit on April 13, but had another engagement to attend,” Klosterboer says. “He wanted to talk with college student body presidents directly about the scheduled increase in student loan interest payments on July 1.”
The conference call gave everyone a chance to weigh in on the state of higher education, including the difficulties college students across America—including those at Centre—are currently facing.
“State and local governments are spending less on higher education than they have in the last 30 years—costs are going up and student debt is higher than debt on credit cards, past $1 trillion,” says Klosterboer. “Investing in higher education is like investing in a business—the government gives tax breaks to companies building factories and investing in capital improvements—but those benefits aren’t there for students.”
“College is now just behind a house payment as the biggest expense you can expect to have during the course of your life,” Cho echoes. “And if Congress doesn’t act by July 1, the interest rate on student loans is set to double to 6.8 percent.”
Many Centre students rely on financial support with loans or aid from the College—53 percent of Centre students receive federal loans, including Perkins and Stafford loans, and in total, 64 percent receive need-based aid. Including merit scholarship recipients, more than 80 percent of Centre students receive some kind of grant or scholarship assistance.
Some participants in the conference call presented initiatives aimed at improving conditions for college students and recent graduates.
“The discussion during the call was not just about student loan interest rates on Stafford loans but also other ways to invest in higher education. Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland talked about what they’re doing in his state to curb the cost of higher education, like investing in training young people for the future,” Klosterboer says. “There were a lot of other ideas, like a pay-as-you-earn plan that the Obama administration passed, which caps student loan payments at ten percent of your income.”
Being part of the discussion about higher education was exciting for both Cho and Klosterboer.
“I was honored to be a part of this call. It was an interesting experience being on with people from across the country interested in this issue—and the most exciting part was when Pres. Obama was on the phone,” Cho says. “I think it is an interesting and important issue, especially for Centre students.”
Cho and Klosterboer both appreciate that higher education has risen to the top of important issues politicians must face.
“It’s interesting that student debt and loans have become such an important issue—above immigration or others. This hasn’t been as focused on during the last campaigns,” Cho says. “Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to present their solutions in the best possible light. Both parties are treating this issue with seriousness.”
“This could definitely be an issue discussed during the Vice Presidential Debate,” Klosterboer adds.