Economics students team up to educate peers about national debt

The U.S. national debt is currently estimated at $18 trillion -- and constantly rising. While that is a staggering figure, most of us do not spend much time pondering its implications. A group of SF State students hopes to change that.

Estevan Lopez points to a whiteboard while Louay Mardini and Bria Grant listen to Emmanuel Lemire during a brainstorming session on couches at the library.

Estevan Lopez, Louay Mardini, Bria Grant and Emmanuel Lemire (with Bryan Bone, not pictured) brainstorm ideas for their "Up to Us" campaign, aimed to educate their peers about the growing national debt.


Five economics majors -- Bryan Bone, Bria Grant, Emmanuel Lemire, Estevan Lopez and Louay Mardini -- have been selected to participate in the "Up to Us" competition, a national contest sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative and other nonprofits. From Jan. 26 to Feb. 20, these students, along with 43 other groups at colleges across the country, will lead a campus campaign to encourage awareness and discussion of America's long-term fiscal challenges.

Team leader Estevan Lopez explains his interest in the issue and what the group hopes to accomplish.


What is the single most important message you would like to get out to your peers?

A lot of people don't even realize that we're in debt, so it's basically about making sure that people are aware that this issue exists. The main thing is to tailor it to our audience -- millennials, college students -- personalizing it and making it clear why they should care.


What are your concerns about how the national debt might affect the country's future?

I think one major problem is student loans. As the national debt increases, interest rates on student loans will also increase. Due to a higher opportunity cost of attending university, many people will likely decide to enter the labor market instead. And due to higher tuition costs, we may not be able to afford to send our children to college. This is a very pressing issue: College is already expensive -- but just imagine the future.


How do you feel about the fact that this country has amassed such a huge debt?

I feel empowered because we can share our knowledge with people. The debt has been passed down to us, but it is up to us to make a change. This is something we've learned about in our classes, and it's cool to take knowledge that I've gained here and put it out into the world to benefit society.


Learn more about the SF State students' Up to Us Facebook campaign and Up to Us Twitter campaign.

-- Beth Tagawa