Thursday, March 17, 2011

MSUSA Washington D.C. Trip Recap

Students from the Minnesota State College Student Association (MSUSA), Minnesota State University Student Association (MSCSA), and the Arizona Student Association (ASA) came together in DC to advocate on behalf of public higher education and the students at their respective systems and institutions. Students participated in a full day of federal issue and legislative training before meeting with legislators. The training was similar to the lobby games MSUSA hosted this year. The time spent working through our messages and practice meetings had a dramatic impact on our level of proficiency and ability to keep our meetings moving in the direction we wanted.  

The 2011 Federal Advocacy trip was extremely effective and timely.  There are a number of critical issues facing students in our system, especially related to loss of funding in the Pell Grant and FSEOG.  The US House of Representatives budget bill would cause over 7,900 students in MnSCU to lose some or all of their Pell Grant funding. Thousands of students in Minnesota will also lose SFEOG funding, which in FY2009 supported over 24,000 of the lowest income Pell-eligible students in the state.

Overall, our meetings went really well. Many were held with legislative staff. A couple of highlights include the meeting with Representative Keith Ellison, who was able to personally meet with the student group and asked to help author an amendment regarding the SELF loan.  Representative McCollum indicated she would like to use one of our student’s stories on the House floor when the Pell Grant funding is discussed in the budget bill. Representative Kline, the Chair of the Education in the US House of Representatives, was able to send his Senior Legislative Assistant on Education to our meeting. The meeting with his staff was very productive. The opportunity to meet with legislators and their staff is important to establishing relationships with key decision makers on federal higher education issues.

The trip was a great success and should be a great starting point for follow up with the legislators and staff we met with and for potential in-district meetings on our campuses.

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