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Super PAC educates, brings awareness of student debt debt

By Tess Sohngen, Senior Staff Writer

The Student Debt Reform Political Action Committee (SDR PAC) from Chicago extended to Miami University last semester to raise awareness for student debt reform and super PACs.

The bipartisan, non-profit PAC promotes legislation that allows students to refinance their student loans and advocates for officials who support making college more affordable. Such political figures include Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) from Massachusetts and presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R) from Florida.

Sophomore Colin Mackintosh from DePaul University founded the SDR PAC in January 2015 after his political science class inspired him to become more active in political and student affairs.

"Our main goals are educating people and making students more aware," said Mackintosh. "This year we're going through more fundraising and advertising."

Mackintosh's mother and uncles grew up poor and worked their way through college and into their careers. Today, his mother is a teacher who watches her own students try to do what she did.

"Now, you can't really do that … you have to take out student loans," said Mackintosh. "That's a huge weight around your ankles when you graduate."

Miami student James Guilfoyle is the financial consultant for SDR PAC, and hopes to start promoting the organization in the next month. Internet promotions will start at Miami as well as DePaul, and billboards will also go up in Chicago this semester.

He said support for the super PAC has already exceeded expectations, and he expects the number of donations to SDR PAC to surpass $8,000 by the end of next month. Most small donations have come from students, but non-students have also contributed larger donations.

Guilfoyle and junior Addison Caruso, the political consultant for SDR PAC, seek to expand the awareness of student loans and super PACs to Miami this semester primarily through educating students.

Fifty-three percent of Miami students graduated with student loans in 2014, and the average debt of graduates in 2015 was $28,887, said Brent Shock, director of Student Financial Services.

The average debt at graduation at Miami increased 34.2 percent from 2004 to 2014, below the Ohio and national average debt increase of 53 percent and 56.1 percent respectively.

"I think it is very possible we will see loan debt increase because of the winter term," said Shock.

He said that he and Miami's staff have been working hard to keep costs as low as possible and increasing the number of scholarships provided to students.

Bobby Robaina, a political science student at DePaul University and political consultant for SDR PAC, became involved in the organization through a professor's recommendation, and said that he will continue to work with SDR PAC.

"I'm now a senior at college, and I recognize that student debt is an issue for myself and all my classmates," said Robaina. "Being able to refinance student loans is an important issue collectively among college students … it sets the stage for the future for myself and other students."

Guilfoyle said he would encourage a super PAC to students.

"I would encourage more people to look into starting a super PAC because there's something that can end in change," said Guilfoyle.