By Bridget Thamert
“In 1992, students graduated from college with an average debt of $9,000.00. In 2011, the average student debt was over $25,000.00–almost tripled in twenty years,” Mario Parker Milligan said.
Milligan and Philip Schilts, representatives from Oregon Student Association, visited the EOU campus and attended the most recent MESA meeting. Their mission is to bring awareness to students and advocate for support at the legislative level.
The message? In the state budget, higher education is being significantly underfunded and coupled with rapidly rising living costs; it is becoming extremely difficult for new graduates to get started in life.
Worse, is the huge financial burden that low and middle income families are facing to send a child to college. As a result of dwindling higher education funds, there is less financial aid to be awarded to the neediest students.
The possibility of a higher education is quickly advancing out of the reach for many students in this state. According to OSA’s website The Oregon Opportunity Grant, which provides financial assistance to families on a need basis, is not accessible by 80 percent of those students who actually qualify under the grant’s criteria.
On April 25 in Salem, at the State House, is the Oregon Student Higher Education Lobby Day. Current students and graduates will share their stories about financial difficulties resulting from crushing educational debt. Others will be rallying to show support for change and a reinvestment in higher education.
Several MESA members will attend the rally and would like to send a message from North East Oregon. During the first Mountaineer Day tabling event on Friday, April 19, MESA will create a photo petition of EOU students, faculty and staff who support affordability and accessibility to higher education.
For more information on the rally and what is happening with our education dollars, visit the OSA website at http://www.orstudents.org. The time to act is now!