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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona university students lobby legislators on higher education issues

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Students from the three in-state universities advocated for issues pertaining to higher education at the Arizona Students’ Association’s annual Lobby Con event in Phoenix.

The event is organized by the association, which works to ensure that higher education is affordable and accessible in the state by advocating to elected officials.

The three-day conference brought together student leaders from the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University to learn about important issues in the public university system and gain advocacy and lobbying skills. Some of the participants were the association’s interns, students involved in the Associated Students of the University of Arizona and other students approached about the opportunity and decided that they wanted to partake in the event.

The weekend prepared participating students for Lobby Day, which took place on Monday, and allowed students to have the opportunity to go to the Arizona State Capitol and lobby legislators about the issues discussed throughout the weekend.

The first day of the conference focused on learning about Arizona’s budget, its political landscape and introduced issues regarding costs of university attendance and textbooks.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett attended the conference to explain the budget and where higher education stands in the state’s priorities. Bennett put together a visual model to show that most of the state’s budget goes to the K-12 school system and health and welfare. Higher education, he said, is the state’s third priority. Bennett explained that when the economy started declining, the state was forced to start borrowing money from the public universities. When the state was unable to pay the universities back on time, they delayed payments, causing some of the UA’s current problems.

Bennett also said that the state was forced cut about a half a billion dollars out of the higher education budget.

On the second day, students focused heavily on financial aid and the proposed House Bill 2675. The bill would require some in-state students at the UA, ASU and NAU to pay $2,000 out-of-pocket without the assistance of university aided scholarships or grants. Many students said this requirement would be the reason that prospective students would decide against attending college.

Other topics the students focused on were mobilizing the voice of the youth and preparing to get more students involved in the upcoming presidential election.

Macario Saldate, a Democrat representing Legislative District 27, Tom Anderes, president of the Arizona Board of Regents and Anne-Eve Pedersen from the Arizona Education Network came to the conference to talk about higher education with the students and shared ideas about how student and community leaders can collaborate to improve their universities.

Katy Murray, a marketing junior, said she loved the networking opportunities that Lobby Con offered to students and was able to have lunch with Saldate and Pedersen.

“This conference was a great way to remind students how much power we have and that our voice truly does matter,” Murray said.

On Monday, more than 150 students attended Lobby Day, where they had more than 70 meetings with different legislators. Most of their students voiced their concern about HB 2675.

“When legislators are able to see students come together and rally around one single cause, it really has a lot of impact on the legislature’s view,” said Chad Travis, a business economics junior. “They (the legislators) didn’t really realize the effect that this bill had on students.”

Some members of the state legislature decided to oppose the bill after speaking with the students. James Allen, ASUA president, met with Sen. John Kavanagh, a Republican representing District 8 and sponsor of HB 2675. Allen said Lobby Day was extremely successful and that this event was the “best he’s ever done advocating for students.”

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