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Students, elected leaders to talk student debt Thursday

Students, elected leaders and community members will gather Thursday in Ashland to discuss the impacts of rising college costs and growing student debt on families in the Rogue Valley and to urge action on the issue, Oregon Action announced Tuesday.

State Rep. Peter Buckley and staff from U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden's office are expected to attend.

After launching a student debt survey earlier this year, the group has been collecting local data to measure the impact of rising student debt on Rogue Valley families. Lead Regional Organizer Michelle Glass explains “While there is a lot of information and statistics available about student debt on a national level, we wanted to hone in on the impacts and data about student loan debt in our own community here in Southern Oregon."

Thursday’s event is designed to be an interactive community event to share initial findings of the survey project, hear from local students and connect families experiencing student debt with lawmakers to share ideas and concerns.

“Initial survey results show student debt having a significant impact on local students and families, including housing and food insecurity, inability to pay basic utilities, and high levels of anxiety,” said Kay Brooks, local student and volunteer who helped survey local families.

Another theme that emerged from the project is a desire for stronger action to rein in rising college costs and high student debt loads. Less than 5 percent of respondents felt that elected officials understand the student loan-debt issue and more than 90 percent of respondents said that elected officials should address student loan debt more aggressively.

The event is set for 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, will be held at Caldera Taphouse on Water Street. The Illies will play live music. The event is open to the public.

Oregon Action is a grassroots organization focused on economic issues affecting working people. For more, go to its website, oregonaction.org.