Student Body Presidents Write Letter to Congress
March 12, 2019
Story by Jordan Baker
Statewide student associations representing more than 6.1 million college students on more than 400 campuses called on Congress today to develop solutions that match the massive scale of challenges facing students today. The letter specifies a range of policy issues for lawmakers to consider as the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee begin hearings to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).
The student leaders who organized the letter recognize the urgency of policy reform, as students face growing and continued crises around equity, student finances, and campus safety. Ultimately, the letter reflects the need for policy to be heavily student-driven from design to implementation. That is why elected student leaders from across the country have come together to create a set of student-centered policy principles to help inform higher education policy decisions. The students are urging Congress to ensure that the design and implementation of future policy are truly student-centered.
“Now, more than ever, students must join together to uplift the student voice and ensure that the student perspective is present, loud, and heard at all levels of government. By working together, we can maximize our potential to create real change for students across the nation,” Michael Braun, 2018-19 President of the SUNY Student Assembly (SUNYSA).
In the letter, student leaders outline a set of principles they believe are critical to successfully addressing issues students experience every day. The letter asks lawmakers to consider the following priorities for HEA in a set of three major principles:
- Cost should not be a barrier to high-quality postsecondary education
- Equity is central to scaling student success
- Higher education policy must protect students’ rights
“Students need to be heavily included in the HEA reauthorization process,” said Andy MacCracken, Executive Director and Co-founder of National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC), a national nonprofit that helped coordinate the letter. “It will be impossible to successfully create student-centric policy without significant student input. Students understand student needs better than anyone else,” he added.
Students outlined a range of policy proposals that support their principles, which include efforts to heavily expand the Federal Pell Grant and reinvigorate state investments in higher education. While the student leaders support efforts to address existing $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, they call for major action to reduce students’ need to so heavily rely on loans in the first place.
They are also calling on Congress to take action to address campus sexual assault, expressing concern over proposed Title IX regulations. The students wrote: “Sexual victimization affects roughly 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men on college campuses, leading to measurably poor student outcomes, including dropping out, increased prevalence of substance use disorders, and severely negative economic impacts.”
The student signatories represent a diverse array of more than 400 public institutions, including major flagship institutions, regional campus, minority-serving institutions, and community colleges. The letter, organized through NCLC, was a collaborative effort among more than a dozen statewide student associations and similar multi-campus SGA coalitions. The coalition plans to continue engaging in the HEA reauthorization process and beyond.
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