With total student debt in this country totaling over $440 billion, and the average student today graduating with debt almost three and a half times that of graduates a decade ago, the Campaign for College Affordability is giving students and recent graduates the chance to highlight the crisis in student aid – and at the same time turn their debt into cash.
The Campaign for College Affordability announces the College Affordability Essay Contest. The contest is open to current students, undergraduate or graduate, and former students with at least $2,500 in outstanding educational debt who write and place an essay, reported article, opinion piece, or multimedia work on the topic of college affordability in a college, local or national publication – print or web. The winner, to be determined by our panel of judges, will be awarded a $2,500 scholarship to alleviate his or her student debt burden. You can report on the issues; write about your personal struggles with debt, affordability, and the system; propose creative solutions – we’re looking for original contributions to the debate.
We will be accepting entries from students across the country from now until October 29, 2007. The entries will be judged by a panel of policy makers, experts, and respected journalists that we’ll announce in the coming weeks. The $2,500 scholarship prize was won by Campus Progress for its innovative Debt Hits Hard videos in Huffington Post’s Contagious Festival.
The judges will choose one winner from the top five entries, which will be selected by the organizations that make up the Campaign for College Affordability. Essays will be judged for their content, visibility, and potential impact. Winners will be announced on November 13th, 2007.
All entries must address one or more of the following issues:
- College Access – Each year many qualified students must forgo a college education because of rising costs and inadequate student aid. Others must settle with their second, third, or fourth choice of school, or are forced to work long hours, live off campus, or make other decisions that may have a negative effect on their academic performance.
- Student Debt – Each year students graduate with more and more student debt, and this debt is becoming harder to manage. Many recent graduates are making career choices based not on their talents or preferences, but as a result of large debt burdens. Fewer and fewer young people are choosing careers in lower-paying public service fields, such as social work or teaching, and those who do find themselves terribly financially strapped. Increasingly students are taking out costly private loans either to make up for a gap between their aid package and the cost of their education, or because they were misinformed by marketing campaigns touting fast, easy, and cheap loans. Private loans have higher interest rates and fewer borrower protections, which make a borrower’s debt burden more difficult to bear. Student debt is also causing borrowers to delay major life decisions like buying a home, buying a car, or getting married.
- Fair Lending – Recent investigations by attorney generals and advocacy groups have revealed a pattern of rampant conflicts of interests in financial aid offices across the country. Lenders have offered revenue sharing deals, staff time, stock options, and even Caribbean vacations to financial aid offices or their employees so that they will be recommended favorably to student borrowers. If there private lenders are allowed to participate in federal loan programs, they should be forced to compete in a way that benefits borrowers and taxpayers. CurrentlyCurrently, because lenders get unnecessarily large government subsidies for every student they sign on, they try to quash competition by wooing financial aid administrators to steer students to their loans even if it’s not the best deal. . Have you been discouraged from shopping around for the best deal or from consolidating your loans with a different lender? Some of the money currently going to subsidize lenders should be used to make college more affordable. Campus Progress has released a guide to investigating the conflict of interest problem on your campus.
Though we encourage complete creativity, we want to remind you that the Campaign for College Affordability is comprised of non-partisan, non-profit organizations, and, as such, is prohibited from partisan political activity. Therefore, we won’t use submissions with an overwhelmingly partisan message, or that focus on particular political candidates.