$1.2 trillion. That is the collective borrowed cost of a college education. And with that continually rising cost coupled with a decline in governmental and institutional aid, opportunities in higher education might close for many. But not if Colin Mackintosh has anything to do with it.
Mackintosh, a freshman business student at DePaul, is founder and president of a Super PAC dedicated to fighting for the rights of current and former students to have the ability to refinance their federal student loans.
The PAC, named Student Debt Reform, came to be after Mackintosh learned about them while taking Catherine May’s PSC 120 course last quarter.
“We discussed the role of money in political campaigns and the issues surrounding Super PACs,” May said. “I showed a clip of Stephen Colbert who satirically demonstrated the problems with Super PACs and also formed his own PAC in the 2008 election.”
“Colin became intrigued with the idea and asked if he could start a Super PAC. I didn’t know exactly the process, but I did tell him he most likely could form one,” she said. “So I pointed him to some sources and he followed through. I really admire Colin because very few students actually try to take their knowledge and apply it in the real world.”
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Super PAC is a political action committee that “may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.”
“Our objective currently is to get our name out and to promote our issue,” Mackintosh said. “The PAC as a whole would like to stay as bipartisan as possible by focusing more on alerting and educating people on the importance of this issue and be less on promoting individual candidates.”
Student loans have proven to be a loaded topic for those who have amassed a large sum of debt just for pursuing an education. May believes the issue to be extremely relevant for today’s generation.
“As we see stagnation in wages over time, the wage to debt ratio is a significant concern to examine for young adults,” she said. “As Senator Elizabeth Warren has stated, the federal government is making millions of dollars in profit off of student loans. Students should be able to reduce their debt through refinancing at lower rates like homeowners and other corporate actors.”
Warren, a liberal senator from Massachusetts, has been an advocate for student loan debt relief. Last year, she and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) co-sponsored a bill that would allow for students to refinance their loans to today’s lower interest rates. However, senate Republicans blocked the bill.
Warren and Durbin appeared at a student event in Chicago last October where they discussed the issue of student loans. Warren was fairly blunt in her assessment of the problem.
“The United States government, instead of saying that we’re going to invest in your generation, is saying hey listen, if you’re clever enough to be born to a rich family, you’ve got every opportunity. Mom and Dad will write a check and you’re golden. You can make it,” Warren said. “But if you’re not, and you’re somebody who’s got to go out there and work for it, the cost of college is higher, you have to go out and borrow a little money, and there’s an extra tax put on you.”
Echoing Warren, Mackintosh believes that providing students with the option to refinance their federal student loans would “be the first step in the right direction towards making higher education accessible to everyone.”
Student Debt Reform will operate in the political arena by accepting donations from any person who is inspired to help support the cause for federal student debt reform.
“Unfortunately, if you want to be heard and effect the political agenda, you need to raise money so that the political leaders will listen.” May said. “While the role of money in campaigns is a problem and a corrosive force in our democracy presently, money talks.”
People can donate through the PAC’s website using credit or debit cards, PayPal, or by sending a check that includes the required information listed on the website.
People can even donate using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Dogecoin.
“We feel that accepting cryptocurrency provides an innovative way for people to better connect with our organization and to stay up to date, especially in this tech savvy era,” Mackintosh said.
Explaining the filing process for starting up a Super PAC, Mackintosh said that time and money were key components of the process.
“The most time consuming part was just figuring out who I needed to file with, what form I needed to file, what requirements must I meet, how will I be regulated and what legal documents do I have to produce myself,” Mackintosh said.
“I probably visited the bank eight times over the course of fall quarter, only to find out I still need to file with “this” organization or create “that” document. On paper, creating a Super PAC is simple, but doing it for the first time is very time consuming.”