December 1, 2000

Lobby Efforts Renew

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Sixteen students in colleges and universities across New York State, including two Cornellians, lobbied in Albany yesterday for increased funding of state financial aid programs.

Leah Doane ’02 and Jacob LeClair ’03 visited the Higher Education Services Corp, the agency which administers the Tuition Assistance Program; the State Education Department; the New York State Division of the Budget and legislative staff in Governor George E. Pataki’s office.

“I’m actually out-of-state … but it was a good opportunity. It’s an important thing for our school, [since] 70 percent of our school [receives] financial aid,” said Doane, an Illinois resident. “The state has to realize that all students are concerned about financial aid, not just the ones who receive it.”

“In the next couple of weeks, [legislators are] deciding funding levels in higher education. It’s important that they know that students are working on this,” said Charles Kruzansky, director of state relations.

The state budget is scheduled to be approved in January; legislators are currently adding to the proposal set up by Pataki who will then accept or reject the additions.

Last year, Kruzansky noted, was “the best year in more than six years” for financial aid. “It’s important that people know that we are aware of this, we appreciate it, but we don’t want it to go away,” he said.

Students were recruited by Molly Darnieder, director of Campus Information and Visitor Relations, who sent out an e-mail looking for state residents on financial aid.

LeClair said that he fit the description and became interested in lobbying.

“We had four meetings with people who are involved in formulating the budget,” LeClair said. “We always get positive feedback from the people we speak with. They work in their offices, and they don’t see what’s going on [with students].”

Students met staff officials in their own offices and had the opportunity to speak about their own experiences at college, such as the costs of books, food and housing.

“[Lobbying] gives students a voice, and it’s good for government officials to see what exactly their programs do,” Sidd Pattanayak ’99, a legislative associate working in Albany.

“We were tired,” Doane said. But she agreed that it was important to reach legislators who do not ordinarily interact with students.

“A lot of it was just being able to talk to people. I feel like a lot of them are out of touch,” she added.

Archived article by Beth Herskovits