MSA president reaches out to the White House
The call was made between student body presidents across the country and President Obama.
Aug. 04, 2011
As the debt ceiling crisis reached fever pitch last week on Capitol Hill, student government presidents from 40 states joined together to discuss the issue with President Barack Obama via conference call. The call was the result of a July 20 letter signed by 120 student government presidents from around the country.
Among those student representatives that included their signatures on the letter was Missouri Students Association President Eric Woods.
“I contacted several presidents that I knew from different schools and got them to sign on," Woods said. "We all felt that the issue was very important. The impact the phone call had on us was even better because we really felt like a legitimate player in this debate.”
The letter was sent to the White House on July 20 and was addressed to President Obama as well as the majority and minority leaders of the house and senate.
“This is not about politics" the letter stated. "Our country and our future are in serious trouble, and the clock is ticking. Without an immediate increase in the debt ceiling and a long-term reduction of budget deficits, our weak economy will suffer even more.”
The movement was founded by recent Georgetown University graduate Carlos Reyes and has received media attention from the likes of ABC News and The Washington Post.
“That we even had the call was a great victory for us because it was the White House that reached out to us and planned the call after they had seen the letter and all the media that had surrounded it,” Woods said. “They had seen that students were interested in this and they were the ones that decided the president should speak to us about it.”
Woods said the White House asked that the contents of the conference call be taken off the record and student body presidents were instructed to not give out any specific information.
“I think that the President was very encouraged that we were actually paying attention and were concerned about the issues of the day,” Woods said. “He was very nice on the phone and glad that we were able to do it.”
Less than a week after the conference call, President Obama signed a bill into law that raised the debt ceiling by $2 trillion dollars and also removed $917 billion in federal spending cuts.
“I’m glad that a deal was made, but I was a little disappointed to learn that some of the cuts that had been proposed would effect higher education funding, particularly students loans,” Woods said. “It’s still disappointing whenever we have to resort to cutting federal funding for education.”
Federal Pell Grants for students will increase by $17 million during the next three years, and according to the White House, subsidized loans for graduate students will be cut almost entirely from the national budget.
“We’re all going to be feeling it in some way or another,” Woods said. “Students will be impacted, but it’s difficult to say at this early stage to say how and by what.”
Although the debt ceiling issue is currently resolved, Woods said students need to continue to make their voices heard in Washington.
“I’d been watching this debt ceiling conversation go on for some time, and had grown increasingly frustrated at both sides for not wanting to compromise for the good of the country.” Woods said. “I realized that I was in a unique position to stand up for the students that I represent and say that we deserve better.”