A student government committee held a training session for student lobbyists Monday on how to meet with elected officials in an effort to achieve tuition protection and to increase need-based financial aid in the upcoming state biennial budget.
“We need as many people lobbying on the budget as possible, see as many students as possible,” ASM Government Relations Adviser Michael Moscicke, who trained committee members on lobby visits, said.
The lobby training is in part a preparation for the United Council Lobby Day on Feb. 25, when student lobbyists from across the state come together to meet legislators in the Capitol.
According to Dylan Jambrek, United Council government relations director, the organization has scheduled 45 lobby visits on Lobby Day, giving students an opportunity to reach the larger community outside of Madison.
The committee will frame more specific strategies after the governor releases the budget on Feb. 20 and lobby with the state Joint Committee on Finance for an increase in financial aid for Wisconsin residents, tuition protection such as a cap on tuition increase or tuition freeze and a general increase in state funding for higher education, according to Chair Daniel Statter.
“It could be written into the bill in a variety of ways, but the underlying principle is that we see tuition [increase] as a major threat to access and a major threat to competitiveness,” Statter said. “For Wisconsin residents, this is an extremely important issue.”
Statter said committee members would like to see the Legislature guarantee to not only help families plan responsibly and financially for their children’s college education, but also ensure they can actually afford the bill.
The committee has sent out information packets to 10 legislators, including members’ personal stories regarding the continued tuition increase and plans to target 30 different legislators on the budget issue, according to Statter.
“Like any other students, we are tired of the 5.5 percent tuition increases,” he said.
The issue of tuition increases are affected by a larger conflict with the UW System administration, which requests full authority over tuition level, Jambrek said.
Besides the Lobby Day, United Council also organized a statewide call-in day on Feb. 14 focusing on the Joint Committee on Finance.
Committee members are also working on the Responsible Action campaign and are in the process of meeting with university administration and state legislators to seek support for their plan.
Statter and Jambrek agree the focus of both organizations is on the issue of the state biennial budget, but that afterward they will be ready to proceed with the rest of their campaigns.