Skip to Main Content
Help us engage younger Americans on the problem of a growing national debt
humanities & arts policy analysis policy budget legislation national debt
top 50%
36 months ago
Small pic congress

NOTE: This challenge is open to US college students and recent graduates. No other submissions will be accepted. 

The generation of Americans in college or just beginning their professional lives will be the one facing the greatest impact of a large increase in the national debt. However, it is difficult to make the  case to individuals that they have a tangible, individual economic stake in seeing the national debt problem addressed, especially when the solutions sometimes seem to involve tangible economic "pain." The Concord Coalition wants to hear ideas on how to best engage younger Americans on these issues.

At The Concord Coalition, we have engagement tools, such as an interactive budget exercise and chart presentations, and we regularly facilitate forums with policy experts and former members of Congress. However, we find that large numbers, like the $22 trillion total national debt, can be difficult to grasp at an individual level. When you hear a number that big, it almost seems unfathomable, and dividing that number into a per-person portion of the debt isn't an accurate way to describe the impact the debt has on each of us as individuals. 

To learn more, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER

This project was funded in part by grants or donations from:

The Richard C. Munroe Foundation

Peter T. Paul

The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation's Geoffrey E. Clark and Martha Fuller Clark Fund

Paul and Sandra Montrone

New Hampshire Senator Daniel E. Innis


Tell us how to better engage younger Americans on the subject of the national debt. Specifically, answer the following questions in detail:

  1. How should we connect with this target audience in a way that resonates? What will most effectively capture their attention? Explain what media avenues, in-person events, and student groups we should use for our approach.
  2. Then, how can we put the national debt into perspective for this younger audience? How can we accurately make the national debt feel tangible and pressing?

Your idea must be inexpensive enough to replicate at scale. (ex. at multiple locations or campuses across the country)

Here's an example of making a large economic issue feel tangible/pressing: Recently, economists devised a metric to explain the state of Venezuela's worsening economy. Instead of simply pointing to an inflation rate of over 1 million percent to highlight the dire economic conditions, they framed it in terms of how many calories a person could purchase in a single day if they spent 100 percent of their income on the cheapest available calorie. At minimum wage, a person in Venezuela can purchase 900 calories, compared to 200,000 calories in one day on minimum wage in the United States. The normal person needs approximately 2,000 calories a day, so people trying to live on minimum wage in Venezuela are literally starving.

    Submissions will be graded on the following criteria:
  • Practicality
  • Creativity
  • Clarity
Reward Tiers
Top 10%
will share $1,000
Next 15%
will share $400
Next 25%
will share $200
Actual individual rewards will be based on the total number of eligible solutions.
$83.30 V
$83.30 Square pic 60 picture Pennsylvania State University
$83.30 G Arizona State University
$83.30 Square pic 60 myavatar University of Houston-Downtown
$83.30 Square pic 60 dandelion flower pictures Bennington College
$83.30 M
$83.30 Square pic 60 img072 2 Harvard University
$83.30 Square pic 60 rvz 2719 University of California, Los Angeles
$83.30 M Johns Hopkins University
$83.30 E Michigan Technological University
$83.30 Square pic 60 img 1747 California Institute of Technology
$83.30 W Keene State College
$23.50 Square pic 60 6be95546d3ad8609795545599b1648ad West Virginia University
$23.50 A university of central florida
$23.50 D Penn Foster
$23.50 Square pic 60 square small Georgia Institute of Technology
$23.50 M Simpson College
$23.50 Z University of Central Florida
$23.50 Square pic 60 jordan lake picture Duke University
$23.50 Picture?width=160 University of Massachusetts
$23.50 K University of Central Florida
$23.50 Square pic 60 10 31 14 pro Walden University
$23.50 Z Minnesota State University Moorhead
$23.50 F University of California, Los Angeles
$23.50 Square pic 60 headshot University of Miami
$23.50 Square pic 60 njphotoshootjanelle Liberty University
$23.50 A Simpson College
$23.50 J Illinois State University
$23.50 M University of Central Florida