By Amber Deming/The Signal
Four California State University, Stanislaus students joined University President Joseph Sheley and Associate Vice President of Communications and Public Affairs Dave Tonelli last Wednesday in Washington D.C. to lobby federal legislators for their support of the California State University system.
This year, five universities allied their university administration with their respective Associated Students organizations to discuss across-the-board issues. These campuses included CSU Bakersfield, Stanislaus, Fresno, San Bernardino and Channel Islands.
“My purpose was to bring back stories from my student constituents to the members of Congress so that they can connect on a personal level with what’s going on at our university,” said Caleb Wittstruck, CSU Stanislaus Associated Students Incorporated Director-at-Large, one of the four students selected to accompany Sheley.
The day started with a briefing at the Capitol. All participants in CSU Hill Day grouped in the Rayburn building to hear words of encouragement and advice from CSU Chancellor Timothy White.
The Stanislaus troop then headed up to U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham’s office for their first visit of the day.
Sheley addressed some key issues for CSU Stanislaus, including veterans services, Pell grants and student loans. Denham (R-Turlock) expressed his support for veterans, as a veteran himself, and for Pell grants. Wittstruck then geared the conversation towards student loans.
“The six-year cap on federal loans is hindering the graduation rates in the CSU. The average for students is six years, which means many students need more time than that.”
Denham responded with surprise that the graduation rate is no longer at four years.Denham expressed his support for CSU Stanislaus both verbally and nonverbally by ignoring several interruptions from his staff reminding him that his next appointment was waiting.
After a lunch break, Sheley led the Stanislaus delegation to the office of U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney, representative of the San Joaquin district, which encompasses the CSU Stanislaus Stockton Center.
Though the visit was short, ASI Warrior Street Team Lobby Chair Tomara Hall, managed to relay the importance of the Promise Scholars program and work-study through anecdotes of student stories.
McNerney was very interested in what the students had to say, agreeing with the importance of student support programs and services.
“I felt like he was very understanding and very knowledgeable about student issues. I really appreciated that,” Hall said during the debrief after the conversation. “I think that we can count on his office to help us in looking for alternatives or solutions to minimize the student loan debt and increasing the availability of Pell grants.”
The last meeting of the day was with the office of U.S. Rep. Jim Costa, representative of the lower Central Valley district.
Costa’s office was overbooked and thus resulted in a hallway meeting with a staff member.
Sheley impressed upon the staff member that Costa does not represent just the Fresno State campus in his district, but also many of the students of CSU Stanislaus.
Though Costa was not available to meet in person during his visit, he made a conscious effort to come to the reception later in the day and meet with Sheley.
After the reception, the CSU Stanislaus delegation met and debriefed about the day’s events. Sheley expressed his excitement at the great response from the legislators, which he mentioned may have been, in large part, due to the student presence.
The impact of CSU Hill Day on the federal legislators will be revealed over the year through their voting on higher education bills.
The preceding article was provided by The Signal through a partnership to better inform the community of campus news. Visit www.CSUSignal.com for more CSU Stanislaus news.