Highland Park Scot graduate Quentin Wathum-Ocama tackled college the cost-efficient way. He attended Normandale and Metro State for two years before making his way to the West Bank and the University of Minnesota's Urban Studies program.
Like many of his brethren, the 24-year-old paid tuition through the full meal deal of federal grants and loans. But heading into his senior year, Wathum-Ocama tapped out on government money. He had to take out a loan through a private lender in order to finish.
Wathum-Ocama graduated with a B.A. last year. He's been working as a teaching assistant for St. Paul public schools. Next month, he's headed back to the U for a master's in education — and tacking on to what is already a $60,000 pile of student debt.
"It shouldn't have to cost me sixty to eighty grand to get to my career choice," he says. "That's the problem."
Rep. John Kline, Minnesota's Most Reprehensible Congressman™, hasn't been much to help the likes of Wathum-Ocama.
As the powerful chairman of the House Committee of Education and the Workforce, the Burnsville Republican is in prime position to make higher ed more affordable and accessible.
Instead, the 67-year-old lawmaker has supported increased student loan rates, voted to slash Pell grants, and protected predatory for-profit colleges preying on military veterans, all-the-while pocketing gobs of campaign cash from the disgraced sector.
So Wathum-Ocama and a handful of students from the Minnesota Young DFL and College Democrats dropped by Kline's Burnsville office last Friday to award him an honorary doctorate in "Sticking it to Students."
"He needs to think about what he's doing, think about us as Minnesota students and not just some talking point," says Wathum-Ocama. "Supporting cutting Pell grants and increasing the rates on loans, they matter. It's important for him to know that students won't forget he hasn't been there for us when he's up for re-election in 2016."
The young Dems were hoping for a meet and greet, since it's Congress' summer recess. But Kline wasn't around.
"I knew he wouldn't meet with us even if he was there," Wathum-Ocama says. "It doesn't matter. We made our point and we're not going away."