NICOLE BRUNET / THE EAGLE
Roughly 40 members of the Coalition of American University Students (CAUS) called for a tuition freeze on Oct. 20, hand-delivering a letter of grievances to AU President Neil Kerwin during his welcome speech at All-American Weekend.
CAUS plans to hold a second rally on Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. if the organization does not receive a response from Kerwin by Oct. 25, according to Steve Demarest, a senior in the School of Public Affairs and a member of CAUS.
Kerwin passed the group at the beginning of the rally to meet with the parents of AU students in the Ward Circle Building as a few members of the rally sang “Imperial March” from “Star Wars.” Kerwin briefly observed the demonstration as he approached the building but did not stop to speak with the students.
The rally, organized by SPA senior Chris Litchfield, included two marches around the Quad and a gathering where members shared their personal stories of financial hardship and student debt.
Jenna Nichols, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the group about her experience of raising a toddler while she and her partner balance student loans, child care and housing costs in the D.C. area.
Nichols said she wanted to avoid the high cost of childcare and housing in D.C., so she bought a home in Manassas, Va. However, this meant driving to campus and paying about $1,200 for a parking permit.
However, she said she received a grant and a low-interest federal loan but still had to get a $10,000 private loan with an 8.25 percent interest rate.
Valerie Kiebala, a sophomore in the School of International Service, said her friend’s family could no longer afford the cost of tuition, so her friend had to leave AU and attend a community college in her home state.
“We were sitting in the Quad one day, talking about what our plans for classes and majors were, and she said, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to be here in a couple of weeks,’” Kiebala said.
Kiebala’s brother attended Northwestern University in Illinois and accumulated around $80,000 in debt.
“Education should be free,” Kiebala said.
Niusha Nawab, a sophomore in CAS, said he does not receive any financial aid and instead relies completely on loans to pay his tuition.
Nawab’s family looks wealthier on paper than they actually are, he said.
Nawab, who joined CAUS in May, said his younger brother wants to attend George Washington University, but that it will be difficult unless his brother earns a scholarship.
“It’s a really heavy burden,” Nawab said.
Staff Writer Zach C. Cohen contributed to this report.