Some Illinois college students are part of a growing movement to raise awareness of the $23 trillion national debt and brainstorm solutions.
Teams involved in the Up to Us competition receive training and funds to create a campus campaign to engage others to act, to help address the nation's fiscal challenges. Hilary Allen, senior associate of programs for the nonprofit Net Impact, manages the program, but started as a participant during her senior year at the University of Illinois. She said learning about the scope and impact of the national debt empowers students to act.
"Twenty-three trillion dollars is an unfathomable amount of money," she said, "but then, the other thing that really strikes students is the lack of bipartisan collaboration, and the lack of political will to solve this issue."
Students from City Colleges of Chicago, Illinois College, Northeastern Illinois University and the University of Illinois at Chicago are part of this year's Up to Us competition. Top teams will be announced in April; the winner receives a cash prize and recognition for their work.
Allen said the "math" of the national debt is nonpartisan, and teams are encouraged to work with campus organizations from all political affiliations.
"It affects both Republicans [and] Democrats, liberals, independents," she said. "It's a refreshing message in this polarized time and so students get really excited about partnering with the College Democrats and the College Republicans, for example."
According to the Congressional Budget Office, interest on the debt is the fastest-growing item in the federal budget, and some analysts predict it could exceed $1 trillion in a decade. Allen said younger generations don't want to be stuck with the bill.
"The more we spend on interest, the less funding we have to spend on the future," she said, "on our children, public education, infrastructure - whatever we care about as citizens, we have less flexibility in the budget to spend."
More information is online at itsuptous.org.