By Jamie Shawver, OMS-III, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine of Midwestern University, COSGP National Legislative Representative
I’m not just advocating to save Grad PLUS, I’m fighting for it.
Most graduate and professional students rely on loans to pay for school. Currently, the federal Direct Loan Program allows graduate students to borrow up to their full cost of attendance through Grad PLUS loans. However, low-interest Grad PLUS loans are at risk of being replaced by a new loan program proposed in the PROSPER Act, Republican legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee that places yearly and lifetime caps on graduate student borrowing. For many students, the new loans would not cover their full cost of attendance. This is a serious issue.
I wish I could go to school, become a doctor, and not have to worry about what kind of loans I have, or keep track of market interest rates. I’m thankful that my tuition and costs are covered by federal loans, but it feels temporary when I know a year from now, hundreds of thousands of graduate students may not be able to say the same. The time to speak up is now as the Senate drafts its own bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). This isn’t just my fight, it’s everyone’s fight.
With the ever-evolving use of social media, Congress has increased its interaction with the public. It is possible to influence public policy and fight for Grad PLUS loans from virtually anywhere. A study of House and Senate communications directors, and my conversations with Hill staffers, showed that it takes fewer than 30 Twitter interactions, between three and five phone calls, or one in-person visit for them to “pay attention” to an issue. I tweet to the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, I receive newsletters from my representatives, I send emails about issues that matter to me, and I visit congressional offices with my classmates and peers. The best part? My Members of Congress respond.
Because of social media interaction and devoted advocates, along with strong bipartisan support from lawmakers, the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Teaching Health Center Graduate Medical Education Program and the National Health Service Corps received funding this year. Help change the game! Tweet at your Representatives, remind the Senate HELP Committee who they’ll be affecting during the HEA reauthorization, and fight to save low-interest, federal loans that cover the full cost of attendance for graduate students, because this is a fight for our right to education.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by AACOM.