For over 13 years, Cornell students have traveled to Washington D.C. for “Advocacy Day” to lobby Congress to preserve federal financial aid programs, and this year was no different.
Last week, on March 5 and 6, a group of Cornell students journeyed to The Hill in Washington D.C., to support the Higher Education Reauthorization Bill — dubbed the Aim Higher Act — which would increase funding for Pell Grants and additional federal programs for disadvantaged students, making loans more affordable.
Over 50 percent of Cornell undergraduate students received federal financial aid in the form of Pell Grants or work-study reimbursement during the 2016-2017 academic year.
“We all went with the general consensus that federal aid needs to be increased to compensate for the rising cost of college education,” La’Treil Allen ’22 told The Sun.
The trip lasted for two days — the first spent traveling to Washington D.C. and the second focused on meeting with members of Congress and their staff.
Although the number of meetings varies depending on the number of students attending, the Office of Federal Relations tries to allow students to meet with their hometown representative in the House of Representatives along with one senator from their state, according to Kristen Adams, one of the organizers.
“This event is a great opportunity for students to tell their stories — of why they chose Cornell and why the federal financial aid programs are important to their college education,” Adams told The Sun in an email. “The students have powerful stories that resonate well on Capitol Hill.”
This year, all students had the opportunity to meet with Rep. Dan Meuser ’88 (R-Penn.), a Cornell alumnus on the House Committee on Education and Labor — the group tasked with reauthorizing the programs that students were advocating for.
“It was notable for us to have met with a Cornell alum and to see that [working in Congress] is achievable, especially because many of the students who went have future aspirations to work on the hill,” Allen told The Sun.
Some students were also able to catch glimpses of famous senators while walking through Congressional hallways, including Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-T.X.) and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-U.T.).
“It’s funny because we see these people on T.V. and on the news constantly, and we forget they’re real people. Seeing them just stroll down the hallway was just kind of shocking,” Joanna Hua ’20 told The Sun.
Allen said that students were grateful for the opportunity to share their stories and meet with the people in charge of making these decisions.
“I wouldn’t be able to go to Cornell without federal student aid,” Allen said. “A lot of times people can get detached from the fact they’re making decisions that have implications on many people’s lives. It’s important that these decisions impact real people and to put real faces to these issues.”