Tuition prices and sustainability were top priorities for Sen. Brian Schatz when he kicked off Student Leaders at Mānoa’s “Talk Story” series on Dec. 4.
“Student loan debt has now outreached credit card debt and all other kinds of debts in America other than mortgage debt,” Schatz said at the talk story.
He and Sen. Chris Murphy will file a piece of legislation on college affordability next week.
“It’s a middle-class crisis because people can’t afford to get education,” Schatz said. “I don’t just mean four-year degrees. I mean someone who wants to become a carpenter, someone who wants a certification in something, a community degree. It is very, very difficult to move up the economic chain right now by pursuing additional education.”
Schatz said higher education funding has decreased in recent years due to a reduction in general funding from state legislatures.
The federal government spends $140 billion in direct student aid every year, but not all of it directly benefits students, according to Schatz.
He said public institutions are trying to invest in keeping the cost of college down.
“But not every institution that receives student aid is a public government institution or a not-for-profit institution,” Schatz said. “All we’re saying is for that $140 billion, let’s make it, as they say, ‘revenue neutral,’ which is to say let’s not just spend less than $140 billion. Let’s not spend more than $140 billion. Let’s just spend that money smarter.”
Rio Kwan, a student ambassador for the College of Social Sciences, said the mission of SLAM is active empowerment of students.
“We are a newly formed RIO on campus that was created this semester by the Student Ambassadors of the College of Social Sciences in order to help students gain better accessibility for opportunities to be successful students,” Kwon said.
SLAM hopes to continue its Talk Story series.
“We hope to have other lawmakers come to campus to speak, but lawmakers alone will not be the sole focus,” Kwan said. “We hope that the Talk Story series becomes a vibrant event for students to hear from guest speakers from all facets of our community.”