‘Up to Us’: Raising national debt awareness on campus

“The longer we wait to make sustainable fiscal policy decisions… the more it’s going to have a negative impact on us,” said Lauren Criss-Carboy, a sophomore studying international studies at UAA.

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“Up to Us” event leaders Koby Scott and Josiah Nash tabling at the Student Union. Image courtesy of Lauren Criss-Carboy.
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Lauren Criss-Carboy on Oct. 27 at the 2018 Net Impact Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Image courtesy of Lauren Criss-Carboy.

Criss-Carboy and the rest of the Public Scholars from the Center for Community Engagement & Learning are currently working together on a campus-wide campaign to educate UAA students on the ins and outs of the current national debt.

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness on how the long-term national debt of the United States affects economic opportunities available to young people.

“I don’t think a lot of students recognize the difference between a billion and a trillion dollars… like, that difference is enormous,” said Criss-Carboy.

Currently, “Up to Us” is the only national, campus-based initiative dedicated to engaging college students on fiscal sustainability and economic opportunity. “Up to Us” was first launched in 2012 as a self-described “rapidly growing, nonpartisan movement of young people who recognize… they have no better advocates than themselves.” Over the last seven years, “Up to Us” has engaged more than 230,000 college students across the U.S.

“As a public scholar, it’s really great to engage with [other students] on issues that affect all of us… like the national debt,” said Moira Pyhala, who is serving as the team’s social media manager.

Besides Pyhala and Criss-Carboy, the team is also made up of Koby Scott and Josiah Nash who serve as Event Leads for the campaign.

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“Our campaign has been going fairly well,” said Josiah Nash. “Students are really surprised when they learn some of these facts about the national debt… Hopefully, the overall national effort of the campaign can bring our country closer to acknowledging the problem and finding a bipartisan solution for our Federal budget.”

One of the ways the team at UAA is engaging with students is collecting signatures on the “Up to Us” pledge, a petition that is delivered to political representatives. The goal is to relay the petition to elected officials in order to show that young people care about a “fiscally sound future.”

“The pledge gives us a quantifiable number to show how many students and young people know about the issues… That’s really useful to show the need for what we’re doing,” said Criss-Carboy. “We need people to know that [national debt] is on the radar for students.”

One of the teams goals is fostering partnerships with other organizations on campus.

“By major, students tend to be pretty segmented… so we want to make sure that people of all disciplines are involved,” Criss-Carboy said.

The campaign has also been a big learning experience for Criss-Carboy, who recently represented UAA at the 2018 Net Impact Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“It’s been a process figuring out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses and coordinating everything,” said Criss-Carboy. “Ironically, none of us are economics majors.”

Currently, the team is preparing for their “Walk the Debt!” event coming up on Nov. 8.

“Walk the Debt!” will take place from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the Student Union Skybridge. In order to catch students passing by, the team will be setting up a to-scale model of the national debt, using length to illustrate the debt.

“We wanted to design an event that would get people’s attention, while also communicating the staggering level of debt that our generation will have to take on.” said Criss-Carboy. “We’ll be running a line of tape down the skybridge to represent the debt.”

The team plans on using centimeters to make this model. With 1/2 cm equalling $1 billion and 105.7 meters equaling the total $21.5 trillion of current national debt.

Further down the line on Nov. 15, the team will be hosting a discussion about the national debt and other fiscal policy issues at an event called “Up to Us: A Deliberative Dialogue on the National Debt” from 6:30 – 8 p.m. in SSB 118.

Pizza will be provided to participants, and the team encourages students from all backgrounds and majors to attend.

You can follow the team’s progress on Instagram at @uptouaa.