National youth and campus groups participated in a nationwide call-in April 21 urging Congress to move quickly and pass a progressive budget that would support increased college access and affordability, green jobs and expanded healthcare coverage for students and working families.

Maria Escobar is the national coordinator with the Student Labor Action Project, which organized students at universities in Vermont, Florida and Kansas to call their representatives and senators.

“It’s important that Congress put students first because education is a right not a privilege,” Escobar told the World on the phone.

“It’s time that students voice their concerns and fight major corporations who get bailout money,” noted Escobar. “We’re asking Congress to now put the future of America first.’

Escobar said it’s not right that corporate greed puts educational issues secondary and passing a budget that would allow Pell Grants more readily available to students is a major responsibility and priority.

“And because we are students, they should listen to us,” said Escobar.

“Because of the economic crisis right now, more and more students have to get jobs or take out student loans which puts them in long term debt,” added Escobar.

Having an education allows young people to help improve society, and our government has to invest in America’s future, said Escobar.

“Many countries throughout the world have free higher education. We are the richest nation in the world, why not us?” Escobar wondered.

Escobar said student’s need to get involved and understand how the budget process works and how it affects them.

“We will continue to call Congress until legislation or a budget that is student friendly is passed,” said Escobar.

The youth groups charged that a new direction for America is needed, and the federal budget proposed by President Barack Obama makes some of the firmest commitments in leading us there. The youth and student leaders called national lawmakers to vote for Budget Reconciliation in the final version of the federal budget, which proposes investments to Pell Grants and other higher education programs. Students desperately need these measures to take shape as well as working families across the country, they said.

A bold, progressive 2009 budget is what we need that will help build for the future by departing from the failed economic policies of the past, noted student leaders. Our country will be headed in the right direction when it refocuses its priorities on the issues that will strengthen our economy in the long term, they added.

“It has been predicted that my generation will be the first to fail to surpass our parents’ standard of living,” said Erica Williams, deputy director of Campus Progress in a recent press statement.

“As a young person, I know that it is past time for us to make critical decisions about where our country’s priorities lie, and how we are going to begin rebuilding for the future,” added Williams.

“That is why we are calling our representatives to urge them to support a bold, decisive budget that will build for tomorrow by making investments today. We know that our elected officials have critical decisions to make, and that there is a lot of money on the line. What we want to make clear to them is that there is no trade off between fixing the economy, educating all of our young people, ending our health care crisis and putting us on the road to a clean energy economy,” Williams concluded.

The call-in day of action was sponsored by the Generational Alliance, a coalition of youth organizations working to make young people’s voices heard.