DENVER - Bring down the debt.
As she introduced President Barack Obama at this morning's speech, Mahala Greer, a University of Colorado Denver senior in Spanish, made clear that soaring student debt is a weighty concern for herself and her peers. "In my college career, I have borrowed nearly $30,000 of federal loans, and I know I'm not the only one in this room," she told the packed crowd at the Auraria Event Center. "I'm in a situation like so many other students, where I am solely responsible for my education and all my expenses and I have been since I left high school."
Greer said she has consistently worked 20 hours per week in addition to attending classes. She currently works as a peer educator in the CU Denver Office of Community Standards and Wellness. Greer will pursue a career in bilingual elementary education when she graduates this year.
"I know that my education is invaluable, but sometimes it does feel like it has a very real price tag, too," she said. She received a loud ovation from the crowd when she said, "When I think about my chosen career path all I can do is sigh, and accept the fact that I cannot and will not sacrifice my passion to help lessen social inequality through education, just so I can make a higher salary."
Sueann Ambron, dean of the Business School at CU Denver, said Greer's speech nicely tied in with the President's theme of making education attainable and more affordable for all. "She was talking from the heart," Ambron said. "I think she represents a lot of perspectives that students have."
Patrick Lopez-Negrete, a senior in communications at CU Denver, said Greer spoke eloquently of concerns that affect students. "Student loans are a huge issue right now," Lopez-Negrete said. "It's a real pain to work two jobs while going to college, and having to spend 10 years or more paying loans off."
Greer's speech introduced a highlight of President Obama's speech -- a policy that would lessen the monthly burden of loan repayments on students, including those who are about to graduate.
"So many of us struggle to repay our education debt simply because we are not on the fast track to a six-figure salary," Greer said. With that, she welcomed President Obama to the podium, where he shook Greer's hand to huge applause.
Photo (top-right) by Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)