USSA is a student-run organization based in Washington D.C. that works to help amplify student voice at the local, state and national levels to win victories on student issues, according to USSA’s Web site.
The organization offers training programs and conferences. They meet with local governments on campuses in efforts to empower students to become more vocal about higher education issues.
CU became a direct member in January at the first Finance Board meeting of the semester, said Daniel Ramos, 23, a senior sociology and Spanish major, tri-executive of the UCSU and the National Outreach Director of USSA.
“We’ve been involved with them for a little bit,” Ramos said. “We officially became members this year after hosting Congress and some of our other experiences with them.”
Being a direct member requires a fee of 25 cents per-student, adding up to $7664.75 for CU, an amount that UCSU has paid out of their annual budget, said Ramos.
Ramos described the national recognition of USSA and its associated members as immense.
“We’re recognized as the official voice of students by the White House, the Department of Education, the Speaker’s office, and the rest of Capitol Hill,” Ramos said.
Ramos said the biggest way in which the new membership with USSA could potentially affect students at CU is financially.
“We are able to impact the financial aid package for roughly 15,000, of our students,” Ramos said. “Right now we’re working on student aid reform, so freeing up some more money for direct loans at lower interest rates.”
Another goal through the utilization of USSA with CU’s financial projects is to increase the federal grant amounts as tuition prices increases, Ramos said.
Some students say they are looking forward to having an outside source helping develop the leadership skills of the student body.
“A lot of people lack leadership skills,” said Andrea Zahrastnik, 21, a senior political science major. “So it’s a good thing to have an outside source come in and help since obviously CU hasn’t been effective on its own.”
Some students also think having USSA as a resource will help the CU population develop more effective ways of communicating discontent.
“I think it would be a good idea,” said Sarah Boddington a 22-year-old senior sociology major. “You need to figure out other ways to get your voices heard other than riots and protests and stuff.”
Members of UCSU say they share the same hope that USSA can provide students with the tools they need to effectively communicate changes they wish to see.
“We can hopefully give [students] skills when it comes to direct-action organizing, learning about relations of power, learning about how to build a coalition and how to keep volunteers,” Ramos said.
But despite the high expectations, some students wonder if UCSU is focusing their efforts in the appropriate areas.
“One big thing is that not many people know what UCSU is,” Zahrastnik said. “I think the biggest area should more advertisement of UCSU in general, starting with the people who are actually on UCSU.”
Boddington said she agreed that the involvement of USSA could potentially give UCSU more widespread recognition.
“I think it would be really beneficial for the student government to have them,” Boddington said. “It would be a lot better way to get people involved and get people to understand what they’re working on and understand the issues they’re trying to work out.”
Ramos said he hopes that their Grass Roots Organizing Weekend event in late February will be the first step in empowering students through leadership training.
“We’re inviting students across campus to come,” Ramos said. “Hopefully we give them some skills when it comes to direct-action organizing, learning about relations of power, learning about how to build a coalition, how to keep volunteers and other types of things.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sarah Simmons at Sarah.firstname.lastname@example.org.