Photos by Jonathan Alvira
University students from across Arizona were given an opportunity to lobby state representatives about issues impacting higher education Monday at the Arizona Students’ Association’s 35th annual Lobby Day.
Students from ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University descended on the Capitol to discuss student issues with legislators.
“From year to year, when our students graduate from our universities and a new crop comes in, they’re always well-prepared and seem to have a focus on a few core issues that are very critical to them,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff.
The day started with breakfast and a short welcome speech and afterwards students met in small groups to prepare for individual meetings with state representatives.
Rep. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, introduced himself to a group of ASA members in his office. He was once an ASA member and participated in Lobby Day before.
“I remember my first time going up to the Capitol on Lobby Day,” Dial said. “I think it’s a great way to get involved.”
After the initial set of one-on-one meetings, the students had a luncheon with the state representatives to casually talk about other initiatives. One of the biggest issues this year was HB 2675, which could force full-time students at public universities to pay at least $2,000 in tuition, except for students with athletic scholarship or merit-based scholarships from a national program. Legislatures identified with the students’ frustration on the lack of focus on higher education.
Students who hadn’t lobbied or been to the Capitol before had a three-day training conference prior to Lobby Day to learn the essentials to lobbying.
Lobby Con was held at the Downtown campus, where political insiders and lobbying experts gave students a crash course in lobbying. The conference focused on strengthening public speaking skills and learning more about issues that impact higher education.
Students were bused in from the other major public universities and spent their weekend in Phoenix for the conference.
On Friday, Secretary of State Ken Bennett led an hour-long discussion on how the state budget works. His demonstration with tissue boxes, each box representing a billion dollars of the states budget, gave a simple yet comprehensive summary of why there has been less money going into higher education.
“One thing I think they’ll understand is that it is a tough decision for the legislators,” Bennett said. “To not cut universities means they’ve got to cut more somewhere else.”
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