February 25, 2014

Students Will Lobby Congress For Necessity of Financial Aid

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Correction appended


As part of the Cornell’s eighth annual Federal Student Aid Advocacy Day, ­approximately 20 students will travel to Washington D.C to lobby their state representatives next month.

Students participating will try to stress the necessity of federal aid in education, according to Dianne Miller, director of Cornell’s Office of Federal Government Rela­tions. Students participating in the event will not be required to be on federal aid to participate in the event, she said.

“The federal student aid lobby trip is one of the most important advocacy efforts that Cornell University supports,” Miller said. “It is the chance for our students to tell their financial aid stories directly to the lawmakers who provide funding for student aid programs.”

The students have been briefed on current federal programs such as the Pell Grant and recent changes to federal student aid, but will ultimately speak from their own experiences with student aid, according to Karen LoParco, federal relations associate for the Office of Federal Government Relations.

“It’s the students’ job to tell their story on the importance [of] federal student aid and for them to tell how their aid has helped them achieve their educational goals [at] Cornell University,” she said.

According to Miller, the goal of the event is to encourage legislators to vouch for more federal aid in light of rising student loan fees.

“Lawmakers have been very good about protecting the Pell Grant program during the last several years of budget cuts, but they have not been very good about keeping other aspects of federal financial aid from being cut,” she said.

According to LoParco, the event is organized by the Office of Federal Relations, which represents the University’s interests to the government. She said the office schedules meetings between University faculty and students and relevant legislators on Capitol Hill.

“When you bring in the students, it brings a personalized face to the issue. The members of Congress really enjoy meeting the students; it’s a great opportunity for students to get involved in public policy and helps the government see what aid is doing for students,” LoParco said.

Miller echoed LoParco’s sentiments and said student input is important for representatives to hear.

“In the case of federal student financial aid, it is very important that [legislators] hear directly from the people who are most impacted by their decisions to cut or reduce spending, to change program eligibility requirements, to raise or lower interest rates, and to change the repayment policies,” Miller said.

Michael Alan ’14, who participated in the event in 2011, said he believes that Cornell should make an effort in providing more financial aid alongside the federal government.

“I hope that the administration understands that as it asks the federal government to continue providing student aid, it must also show a commitment to increasing access to the Cornell experience with the university’s own resources,” Alan said. “Private financial aid — at least at Cornell — plays a much larger role in bringing a diverse slate of students to campus.”

The Office of Financial Aid and Cornell Media Relations are aiming to attract a diverse pool of volunteers, according to LoParco.

“Our reach is limited only by the geographic makeup of the students who attend,” Miller said.

The Cornell in Washington Program assists the event by hosting students at the Cornell Wolpe Center in Washington D.C.

This article previously misidentified Dianne Miller, director of Cornell’s Office of Federal Government Rela­tions, as Diane Miller ’88. In fact, she is not a Cornell graduate, but had been confused with Diane Miller ’88, assistant director of Arts and Sciences Career Services.