Determined to have their voices heard, 150 student government presidents signed a nonpartisan letter calling on Congress and the White House to protect Social Security. Representing hundreds of thousands of college students from all 50 states, the student leaders urged officials to consider the stake the younger generation has in defending Social Security.

“Our generation has an enormous stake in the outcome of this debate. More than any other age group, we will be the ones who will pay for and live with the decisions we make today,” the joint letter stated.

Students for a Secure Future released the letter on May 17 during Senate Finance Committee hearings on Social Security reform.

The student leaders said they do not support any plans that divert funds away from the social insurance system, cut benefits or result in deficits. President Bush’s current privatization plan does all three.

“Social Security is the most successful government system ever devised,” Mark Kresowik of the University of Iowa told the press. “It’s taxation without representation if our voices aren’t taken into consideration,” he said. Social Security “needs to be there without cutting benefits.”

The incoming student president of State University of New York schools, Josh Hyman, said Social Security is “basic to the country” and its ideals. “It was part of the New Deal program, giving people the chance to retire with dignity.”

With the current proposals, Hyman said, Social Security won’t be there for his age group. “It may evaporate,” he said.

The student leaders were firm about having their voices heard on the debate. “We are sick of being marginalized,” Hyman said, noting that the letter marks an “unprecedented level of response” by student leaders.

When asked if the bankrupting of private pension plans, like the situation at United Airlines, has influenced student attitudes, Hyman replied, “It clarified for a lot of people how important Social Security is. Private accounts sometimes fail. That’s just not good enough.”

Students for a Secure Future is a joint project of the Student Public Interest Research Groups and United States Student Association.