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Congressman Eric Swalwell Addresses Student Loan Debt at Future Forum

April 27, 2015
Congressman Eric Swalwell

Congressman Eric Swalwell

Recently, OneDublin.org was granted some rare “face time” with 15th Congressional District Congressman Eric Swalwell during his visit at Chabot College in Hayward. The purpose of his presence was to continue a series of public forums to address the important subject of rapidly growing student loan debt and college affordability. For Mr. Swalwell, this subject is very real. As the oldest of four boys, he was the first in his family to attend and to complete college. While attending as a Division I Soccer athlete, he attained both an undergraduate and Law degree from the University of Maryland.

As a member of a working-class family in Dublin, California, this journey would not be easy – specifically related to financing his education. His family decided to make many sacrifices in order to help Mr. Swalwell achieve his dreams. While in college, he interned in Representative Ellen Tauscher’s office. Upon returning to California, he served as a Prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. He also served in local capacities and then successfully ran for a seat on Dublin’s City Council. In January 2015, he was sworn into his second term in the U.S House of Representatives.

One of the major factors facing students at high school age and their parents is the subject of financing their post-secondary education. Looking back merely 20 years ago, the landscape of paying for tuition/housing in the UC/CSU system was vastly different. Adjusted for inflation, the overall costs were relatively reasonable. Today, many families are petrified by the potential costs for furthering the education of what this cost for their children may represent. Public programs in California have been heavily impacted to the degree that a four-year college completion will not be possible – based upon the availability of classes. This has led some local area families to contemplate having their children enroll in private programs or those that are located out of state. This has been done largely due to the fact that some of these institutions cannot guarantee graduation within four years.

Future Forum on Student Debt

Future Forum on Student Debt

What remains is the larger question of education financing. On Monday, Congressman Swalwell was joined by two of his colleagues – Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-Phoenix) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA-Tacoma) at a presentation at Chabot College. They are members who represent a larger group of young Democratic Members of the House of Representatives that are focusing on issues and opportunities for Millennial Americans. Rep. Gallego spoke to the potential of a “double taxation” on two generations of families – affecting both the actual student that is saddled with overwhelming debt and his/her family that is dipping into their own retirement funds to support pursuing a college degree. Rep. Kilmer delivered a salient point about the dichotomy of being able to refinance the mortgage on one’s home and the inability to do the same for college debt.

A crowd of at least 50 participants filled the Events Center Room at Chabot College. A moderated discussion was held to discuss these and many other topics. It was indeed a rare opportunity to be in the presence of three member of Congress in one locale and to have an open dialogue.

What follows is our private conversation with Congressman Eric Swalwell. We wanted to touch upon the Future Forum concept, which he is chairing. Additionally, since he is a native of Dublin we wanted to share that perspective as well.

OneDublin.org: As the Chairperson of this Committee, why are you so passionate about this subject?

Congressman Eric Swalwell: “As a Millennial myself, I have about $100,000 in student loan debt. I know that it impacts everything for young people for buying a house and to starting a family. Future Forum allows to give them a voice from everything including from providing them opportunities that are introduced to Congress and to crowdsourcing their ideas to voice their opinions.”

OneDublin.org: Given the condition of the California state financial situation and with the threat of tuition increases both at the UC and CSU levels, how vital will the Community College system remain as a realistic alternative for many of our high school graduates?

Congressman Swalwell: “Community College will remain a critical part of the educational system. It is a way for people to receive a high quality education. But even Community Colleges are experiencing cuts and it’s taking longer and longer to receive your two-year degree. The other half of that challenge is tuition increases. It seems that every time the Federal Government increase its’ grant loan amount, like the Pell amount, in parallel, universities are increasing their tuition amounts. The student loans are not going as far enough and tuition continues to rise.”

OneDublin.org: Outside of your colleagues in Alaska and Hawaii, you’re probably logging in more air time than most anyone in Congress. When you return to the Bay Area, how do you reach out to your constituents?

Congressman Swalwell: “I try to do the best that I can and I return every weekend. I’ve logged in over 600,000 miles during my tenure since I was first elected. I do my best to reach into our communities through the ‘Work a Day in Your Shoes’ program. I try to see people in the workplace or even in the grocery story. I am also very active via social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Being online is important, but I also know that people want to be connected in different ways.”

OneDublin.org: Given your travel schedule, how easy or difficult is it to see your family when you return to the Bay Area?

Congressman Swalwell: “I just saw my family l last night and I have a second nephew on the way. My family knows that the work is important, but I always aspire to find time to see them more.”

OneDublin.org: As a graduate of Dublin High School, what message would you like to convey to these current students – whether they are incoming Freshmen or those that are about to graduate in two months?

Congressman Swalwell: “I just think that in the last 20 years, Dublin High School has graduated so many amazing graduates. They want to stay connected to the school and those that are matriculating through. So even if you’re unsure of what you want to pursue, chances are that there is a DHS graduate that has already gone through what you experienced or considered. Find a mentor and grasp up to that. Tim Sbranti was my mentor and he was my high school Civics teacher. Tim was at the center of every important decision in my life. It has taught me that there is no need to reinvent the wheel and there are many others that are willing to give back.”

So, here is evidence that dreams can come true. A first generation Dublin resident has matriculated through Dublin High School, through law school and became a Prosecutor in Alameda County. He rose to a position on the Dublin City Council and is now a U.S Congressional Representative. Further, he is leading the charge to address one of the largest issues facing Millennial Americans – the subject of rising student loan debt. OneDubin.org would like to thank Congressman Swalwell and his staff for making this visit possible. We have every reason to believe that his office will produce even more productive outcomes that will benefit the constituents of the 15th Congressional District.

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