Up to Us Inspires Students to Sound the Alarm on National Debt

By: Net Impact staff | May 26, 2016

An Up to Us Event at Jackson State University
An Up to Us Event at Jackson State University

In April 2016, the cover of TIME Magazine displayed a shocking message to all Americans; you owe $42,998.12. This is the amount that every citizen in the US, including children, would need to hand over to erase our national debt of 13.9 trillion dollars. Very few of us have an extra $42,998.12 laying around, therefore we need innovative and collaborative solutions to pay off our national debt. And even fewer of us know how big our national debt even is - enter the Up to Us Competition. 

What is Up to Us?

Partners Net Impact, the Clinton Global Initiative University, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation came together five years ago to create the Up to Us competition. Up to Us is all about students engaging with their peers to educate and empower young people all over the US to have a voice in how we handle the economic challenges facing our nation.

This year’s competition started in October 2015, on the second annual My Two Cents Day, a student-led day of mobilization to engage, educate and inspire action among millennials on the nation’s economic health. In February 2016, 50 teams raised even more awareness for three week of creative and thought-provoking campaigning about the nation’s unsustainable long-term fiscal path. Some teams hosted seminars with professors, fiscal policy debates with members of College Democrat and College Republican chapters, and meetings with congressional representatives and local officials. Other teams held social events, including a debt-themed carnival, an interactive budgeting simulation, a culinary exhibition showcasing local food vendors and linking fiscal and environmental sustainability, and even a campus-wide scavenger hunt oriented around fiscal education. 

Judged by an elite  panel of judges, the College of William & Mary was announced in April as the winning team. The College of William & Mary team held several events, including a “Great Debt-bate” that brought together four political groups on campus to discuss fiscal policy, a dance workshop to “dance the debt away,” and a forum featuring millennial innovators in the fields of healthcare, education, and defense. They received a prize of $10,000 and were recognized by President Bill Clinton at this year’s CGI U meeting, which took place April 1-3 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Why is Up to Us so important?

Currently there is no consensus on how to reduce the national debt over the long-term, meanwhile the US economy seems to be on a path for continued debt accumulation. It will therefore fall on the younger generation to foot the bill. It really is “up to us” to work together to find a solution to this growing problem. Visit the Up to Us website to get involved in the next round of the Up to Us Competition to create change and innovation where you are and read about the 2016 Up to Us Competition to find inspiration.

2016 Up to Us Competition by the numbers:

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