MSA plans D.C. trip to lobby for federal funding

At least seven University of Minnesota students will take part in “Big Ten on the Hill Day” late this March.

by Cali Owings

Representatives from the University of Minnesota will travel to the nationâÄôs capitol to advocate for more federal support for higher education this spring.
The Minnesota Student Association, as part of its membership in the Association of Big Ten Students, will send five delegates to the âÄúBig Ten on the Hill DayâÄù âÄî a lobbying opportunity for all schools in the Big Ten.
MSA President Sarah Shook, Legislative Affairs Director Nick Saab and Legislative Certificate Program Director Chris Tastad are the three representatives who have already decided to travel to Washington. The other two spots will be filled by applicants from MSA and the LCP.
âÄúWe usually consider the state as our primary source of support, but the federal government also plays a very large role,âÄù Tastad said.
Through the LCP, students lobby for more state financial support for the University. The federal platform is more concentrated on research funding.
For Big Ten on the Hill Day, students will advocate for more federal research grants rather than earmarks.
Tastad said the switch would put the focus on skilled researchers at universities rather than on high-paid lobbyists.
The student lobbyists will also be supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act, which would require any federal agency that spends more than $100 million on research to publish findings within six months to advance new ideas and discoveries.
Though MSA will be paying for hotel and airfare for the students go on the trip, Saab stressed that it would not be a vacation.
âÄúIf you come, you are expected to do real work and attend events,âÄù Saab told the representatives present at forum.
Saab said he was working on making the trip a University-sanctioned activity so students would have excused absences, like they do for the UniversityâÄôs lobbying day at the state capitol.
The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly will also be taking two undergraduates involved with MSA to Washington for a lobbying opportunity March 26 to 30.
GAPSA is a member of the Student Advocates for Graduate Education Coalition, of which executive board member Terrance Paape is political director.
Paape will be in charge of preparing the platform and training students to have effective meetings with legislators.
Students will focus on continued federal support for higher education, including the Federal Pell Grant program, Paape said.
Both groups are in the process of setting up meetings with Congressional Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Saab said Big Ten lobbyists will also meet with the secretaries of Education and Agriculture.
Forum also approved the platform for the state legislative session, which includes supporting:

âÄ¢    a $1.3 billion budget request over the next two years to increase state funding to cover two-thirds of tuition,
âÄ¢    an off-year bonding request to fund projects such as the Physics and Nanotechnology Building,
âÄ¢    a shared governance statute, if progress has not been made on developing a University policy by the March Board of Regents meeting and
âÄ¢    legislation to provide debt relief to students who stay in Minnesota after graduation.

Also at MSA forum Tuesday, after less than four months in office, it was announced that the groupâÄôs communications director Dan Garon resigned from his position.
Garon said he thought he accomplished most of what he set out to do with the new position, including putting together a new website, increasing MSAâÄôs visibility and promoting MSAâÄôs initiatives through its site, Facebook, Twitter and campus media.
He did not, however, find a way to stream forum meetings live online, as he had suggested at the beginning of the year.
Since this is GaronâÄôs final semester, he is taking six credits and enrolled as a part-time student. He said he felt it was unfair to receive his $2,500 stipend as a part-time student and wanted someone to be able to continue his work next year.
Dustin Huibregtse, who was involved in MSA in the past and returned from studying abroad this semester, was appointed to the position.