Ryan Biehle, a tri-executive and senior political science major, and Anthony De La Rosa, a sophomore international affairs major, were among the many college students who traveled to Washington D.C. for the annual “Big 12 Day on the Hill.”
The “Big 12 Day on the Hill” was held from March 31 to April 3 and marks the meeting of the big 12 schools’ student government. Biehle and DeLaRosa attended the event along with Dustin Farivar, a tri-executive and senior political science major, and Amie Ha, also a senior political science major and a representative at large for Legislative Council.
“’The Big 12 Day on the Hill’ is when we meet with the Big 12 schools two times a year, in a conference that alternates different places,” DeLaRosa said. “This last October we met in Manhattan, Kansas at Kansas State’s campus, it’s a trip that unifies the Big 12 schools, solidifying representation of students and it’s another way to communicate and work with each other.”
Every season’s Big 12 Day was held on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
The Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, increasing the amount of aid given through federal Pell Grants, the DREAM act and changing the interest rates for federal direct lending were among the main concerns discussed with legislatures during the week.
The Paul Simon Study Abroad Act aims to increase the amount of students studying abroad.
“The goal would be to create a foundation to send 1 million students per year in the U.S. to study abroad,” Biehle said. “It would provide up to $5,000 in scholarship money for students that studied abroad and qualified for a grant.”
“[The act] wants to diversify the locations students travel to for study abroad,” DeLaRosa said. “Right now, 1.36 percent of students study abroad annually, and 1.22 percent of Colorado students study abroad each year. Of that, about 2/3 of students go to Europe, and 95 percent of the world’s growth over the next 50 years is going to be outside Europe.”
With the passage of the stimulus package, the amount of money given through federal Pell Grants has increased and in an effort to continue that yearly increase, students lobbied for tying the Pell Grants to inflation plus 1 percent.
“A Pell Grant is a grant issued by federal aid, CU matches that, so we have it for low-income students,” Biehle said. “We were lobbying to increase the value in an environment where inflation was constantly happening.”
Not all students agree with UCSU’s efforts to get more federal money for higher education because of the nationwide struggle that comes with the recession.
“I’m against it, the federal government spends too much money already,” said Marc Stoecker, a senior broadcast major.
“I’m against it too,” said Victoria Dorr, a senior math major. “I think education is important, and funding for education is important, but I think everyone is struggling so we can’t consider ourselves more important than others.”
The DREAM Act, which stands for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, works to get in-state tuition for undocumented students that graduate from high school in the state they’ve graduated in.
“There’s about 65,000 undocumented students who graduated from high schools each year, they aren’t able to attend college at in-state tuition in the school they graduate from,” De La Rosa said. “On our trip we had looked for the legislature’s support of this, so that was one of our decisions, there has not been official support out of UCSU in support of this yet.”
The final task at hand was decreasing the levels of interest on student loans that students take out from banks.
“Federal direct lending… allows for students to take out loans for their education at interest rates of 2, 3 maybe even 4 percent, but a lot of students need to take out loans from a lot of banks at over 9 percent,” De La Rosa said. “This would allow students to take out their loans for college at 2 to 4 percent rather than at a bank loan, the average would come out to about $95 billion dollars per year which students would save by taking out the lower interest rates, and that’s a lot of money.”
The federal Pell Grant and federal direct lending have been tacked on to the large federal budget and are pending passage.
The consensus among CU attendees was that the “Big 12 Day on the Hill” was successful.
“I think we were well received by each of the representative offices. It seemed that the majority of them supported the issues we were lobbying on,” Biehle said. “It certainly puts a face to the issue, and I think it’s encouraging to hear from their constituents that we care about higher education and we care about making college affordable.”
De La Rosa agreed.
“They were receptive to hearing about student issues from students, legislative issues that affect students and hearing how those issues effect the students,” DeLaRosa said.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sara Kassabian at Sara.email@example.com.