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April 30, 2009
Vol. 28 No. 15

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    Lipinski, Jackson discuss student loan reduction, need for changes

    By Deva Woodly
    deva@uchicago.edu
    News Office

      
    Photo by Beth Rooney

    Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice President of the Office of Civic Engagement, introduces the Rev. Jesse Jacksonís student loan rate reduction program during a discussion Monday, May 13, in the Max Palevsky Cinema.
      

    The University Community Service Center and the Office for Civic Engagement recently brought well-known civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson to the University for a wide-ranging conversation about many of the political and economic issues facing the nation, especially those affecting college-age students.

    In remarks prefacing the conversation, Wallace Goode, Director of UCSC, noted the importance of creating opportunities for the University and its neighbors to come together in discussion and forge reciprocal relationships. “We pride ourselves on building partnerships with community organizations that are based on mutual trust and respect.”

    President Zimmer expanded this theme as he introduced Jackson and moderator Ann Marie Lipinski, Vice President of the Office for Civic Engagement. “As an urban research university,” he asked, “how should we best interact with and contribute to the community and city in which we reside? Ann Marie’s task is to lead the University community in answering that question.”

    The conversation with Jackson, which University students, faculty members and community residents attended, is a part of that answer.

    Lipinski began the conversation with a subject that is close to the hearts of many: student loan debt. Jackson has recently begun a campaign, called Reduce the Rate (reducetherate.org), which aims to reduce the rate on all student loans to 1 percent. “If banks can borrow at 1 percent, students should be able to borrow at 1 percent.” He went on with one of his trademark turns of phrase: “Right now, banks get money for free, then they charge a fee.” The bottom line, he argued, is that the “longer you go to school the worse off you are, and we need to change that.”

    Jackson noted that if not for the brisk sales of President Obama’s two books, he and First Lady Michelle Obama would still be paying off their law school debts.

    “They only just paid off those loans two years ago, and if not for those books, they’d be in the White House getting hounded by Sallie Mae.” After the audience chuckled, Jackson pointed out, “it is simply wrong for students to graduate college with guaranteed debt, but no guaranteed job.”

    Lipinski then asked Jackson to assess how Obama was doing as President. “He’s doing remarkably well. He has a lot of trust-capital. He’s believable. People trust him here and abroad.”

    Referring to the many pictures of Jackson crying as he watched the then-President-elect speak in front of tens of thousands on Election Night in Grant Park, Lipinski asked, “What was going through your head at that moment?”

    Jackson paused before he answered, “it was the sheer joy of the moment coupled with my yearning for those who made it possible to be alive to witness it, if only for a moment.”

    After this emotional moment, Lipinski brought the conversation back to the subject of young people, especially students, in today’s society. Jackson encouraged students to get involved with issues that affect their future.

    Of the student loan crisis, Jackson said, “The worst thing students can do is adjust to these huge debt burdens. Nowadays, it’s normal to carry a huge debt in order to get a good education, but it’s not right. This is going to require a massive mobilization of students because if it’s not right, it’s worth a fight.”

    The UCSC is accepting ideas for future conversation speakers; e-mail ucsc@uchicago.edu.