Students across the country, including those at Georgetown, got the opportunity to trade words with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan during a Twitter conversation that stressed financial literacy and the affordability of higher education Monday evening.

The conversation came just three days before President Obama unveiled a new college affordability plan in conjunction with universities and non-profit groups.

The dialogue, under the hashtag #StuVoice, was part of a series of weekly Twitter chats led by Student Voice, a non-partisan, non-profit student-run organization aimed at addressing the nation’s educational problems and allowing student voices to be heard through its digital platform. It was the first time the Department utilized Twitter as a formal platform for discussion.

The Dept. of Education also sought feedback through the Twitter discussion, asking students to help with the creation of a college rating system that would help students and families to determine the value and affordability of different colleges.

“I’m a huge proponent of financial literacy. We must do a much better job of giving students the tools and info they need,” Duncan tweeted.

Georgetown University Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming (SFS ’72) said that the amount of financial aid that a college gives should be considered when debating how much reform is needed at individual institutions.

“As the administration looks at how it would structure a ratings proposal, it’s important that they not look at simply sticker price … because of the importance of institutional aid in bringing down that cost for many students,” Fleming said.

Duncan called for more information, such as post-graduation employment statistics, to become accessible to current and prospective college students.

“Transparency will empower students and change behavior,” Duncan tweeted.

Fleming said that while it is important to communicate graduation outcomes, such as statistical information about employment and earning, schools such as Georgetown that have a tradition of graduates entering service-oriented professions must also be taken into account.

“We think it is very important that if any kind of rating system is developed, it take into account things like people who decide on their own to go into professions like Teach for America, the Peace Corps or the clergy,” Fleming said.

According to Fleming, the Office of Federal Relations has communicated to the Obama administration that this qualitative information should be included in the rating system.

“They’re very understanding,” Fleming said, “I think they’re stilling grappling with how to actually make that happen.”

Throughout the hour-long Twitter conversation, Duncan tried to gauge the opinions of students and parents concerning how families compare colleges, which factors are most important in selecting a school and how to judge the value of a particular college.

“Student voice is so important to our team as we think through policy decision,” Duncan tweeted.

While most students cited program quality and academic strength as the most important factors in selecting a college, many agreed that these considerations were oftentimes trumped by financial concerns.

Last summer, Georgetown University Student Association President Nate Tisa (SFS ’14) and Vice President Adam Ramadan (SFS ’14) reached out to student body presidents across the country to sign a letter urging Congress to pass a bill to freeze student loan rates until 2015.

“It’s something that doesn’t only hit home for me but for all students at Georgetown who have substantial loans in order to be able to afford an education,” Ramadan said.

The duo also circulated a Georgetown-wide petition to encourage Congress not to raise student loan rates. Ramadan commended the university’s need-blind policy and continued commitment to helping students afford their Georgetown education.

“Access to education and students’ ability to receive their education isn’t something that those students see as a game,” Ramadan said.“The fact that we are need-blind and that we stay true to that I think is something that needs to be advertised more and

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