Advocating for Financial Aid Programs: How to Get Involved
Right as Spring was in the air and the cherry blossoms bloomed, NYU students visited the nation’s capital last week to remind Congress how important federal student aid is in making college a reality for millions of students. They met with Representatives from their hometowns to share personal stories about how federal aid programs enabled them to attend college. Given the uncertain future of many these critical programs, this year’s NYU DC Day trip was particularly crucial.
Each year, the President introduces a formal budget proposal to Congress, and President Trump’s proposal signaled a stark shift in federal spending priorities. For instance, the President’s budget proposes much more spending for the military and national security, and much less for domestic and international aid programs. See the detailed proposals here.
During the annual visit to DC, NYU students asked their Members to support student financial aid programs in the upcoming budget. Specifically they asked Members to:
- Maintain the scheduled increase in the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,920 in FY 2018 (current award is $5,915)
- Reject President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program and provide at least current levels of funding in FY 2018 ($733 million)
- Reject President Trump proposal to make “significant cuts” to the Federal Work Study program and include at least $990 million (current levels) in FY 2018
Our annual trip to D.C. is over, but our community is not done advocating for student aid programs throughout the remainder of the budget process.
Given the proposal President Trump has put forth, it is critical that NYU students continue to share personal stories with their Representatives to convey how financial aid programs have enabled their access to higher education, and to discuss the meaningful ways students plan to contribute to the global economy — and to their local communities — upon graduation.
How to Advocate
There are multiple ways you can advocate for student financial aid programs to your Representatives, but first be sure to identify your hometown Member in the House of Representatives and your State’s Senators.
Write Your Representative
Contact your Representative through personalized letters and emails. When you identify your Representative and Senators, their website will list addresses for their Washington D.C. 0ffice and local district offices, as well as an online form to contact them through email. We recommend letters and emails as opposed to phone calls because writing lets you share in greater detail your experiences and your request that they continue to support federal financial aid programs.
Visit Your Representatives
When you return to your hometown or find yourself in Washington D.C., you can always visit your representative’s office and share your experiences in person. You can either call the office to make an appointment or drop by without an appointment for a few minutes to speak with the staff.
Engage on Social Media
Many Representatives have Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts which let you share your experience and ask them to support these programs in the budget. On your representative’s website, look for links to their social media account handles.
When thinking about your personal experiences with federal student aid programs and deciding what to share with your Representatives, consider the following questions:
- Why did you decide to go to college?
- Are you a first generation college student?
- Why did you choose NYU?
- What does higher education mean to you?
- What are some of your post-graduation goals?
- What experiences have you had at NYU that encouraged you to pursue these goals?
- Which financial aid programs are you a part of?
- How has financial aid impacted your experience at NYU?
As you contact your Members of Congress and Senators to share your experiences in these programs, you can call on them to continue to make financial aid programs a priority for future generations.
Over the past decade, benefits and eligibility for Pell Grants have been repeatedly cut in response to funding shortfalls — pushing hundreds of thousands of students out of the program.
Any effort to further cut federal student financial aid would be harmful to students who are seeking access to a college education.
Investing in higher education is a partnership between students, institutions, and the government. NYU has met affordability head on and is developing innovative ways to address college costs — but government also plays a role by investing in our future generation of leaders and innovators. Sharing your story will help Representatives understand the direct impact student financial aid programs have on their constituents.
NYU Government Affairs will continue to advocate for financial aid programs throughout the remaining federal budget process on behalf of all our students and the institution. But it’s your voice that Members want to hear! If you have further questions about advocating for student financial aid, contact the NYU Office of Government Affairs at (212) 998–2400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Pautz is Director of Government Affairs and serves on the Affordability Working Group.