College Students Tell Politicians: Strike a Debt Deal, It’s Our Future at Stake

By Patrick Ryan | July 26, 2011 | 7:03 PM EDT

( - More than 100 student body presidents representing millions of college students told President Barack Obama on Tuesday that the debt ceiling talks directly affect their job prospects.

The “Do We Have A Deal Yet?” coalition, as they call themselves, is urging the president and congressional leaders to find a “bipartisan” solution to the current stalemate that they believe will improve their chances of finding jobs when they graduate.

“It was a very encouraging call, in the sense that he reaffirmed the importance and significance of us joining this debate,” said Brett Highley, the Purdue University student president. Highley spoke to after Obama and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, held a conference call with Highley and Michael Meaney, the Georgetown University student president.

Highley said he told the president “what potential repercussions we’re facing" if a deal to lift the debt limit isn't reached soon.

The “Do We Have A Deal Yet?” coalition said it is looking for a “bipartisan, balanced deal.” Michael Meaney affirmed to CNSNews that the coalition supports “the framework laid out by the bipartisan fiscal commission and the bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ as a reasonable starting point from which our leaders can work.”

The “Gang of Six” – originally, 3 Democrats, 3 Republicans -- advocated spending cuts that Senate Democrats rejected as well as tax changes that some Republicans rejected. The plan is based on recommendations made by the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission.

President Obama previously indicated that he could go along with the Gang of Six proposal.

Student representatives of “Do We Have A Deal Yet?” said they hope to meet with Obama at the White House on Thursday, although such a meeting has not yet been scheduled. Nevertheless, the students said their message will be the same:

In a letter to the nation’s political leaders last week, the coalition laid it all out: “This is about our future, our education, our jobs, our families, our dreams, our country. But all we can do about it right now is to rely on your leadership,” they wrote. “We ask you find the courage to lead. It is why you are there.”

The coalition wants the Washington political establishment to know that college students are paying attention. Meaney confirmed, “It’s to show that people in our generation have a vested interest in that we care and that we want to see something done.”

As college students, Highley and Meaney said they are looking to the future: “I would just like to jump in and say that every aspect of our long-term debt in this country has an immediate impact on students all across this country, from seeing interest rates hiked up on college loans to a slow economy where people aren’t able to find jobs after they graduate,” Meaney said.

Highley added, “You know there’s been a lot of talk about, obviously, the national unemployment rate is a primary focus, but more specifically, when you look at young adult unemployment, those that are graduating from college, the 20-somethings up to 30, that number is over twice as high.”

In his address to the nation on Monday night, President Obama called for a “fair compromise” that includes tax cuts on the “wealthy,” including small business owners.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insists on spending cuts and no tax increases, attached to a plan that would raise the debt limit in two stages. President Obama insists on a debt-ceiling increase that will take the nation beyond the 2012 election.