Students United, a Minnesota State student advocacy group, went to Washington D.C. in early March to speak with lawmakers on topics such as DACA, textbook prices, and protecting Title IX.
The group consisted of nine students, one from each of Minnesota State’s universities, including Minnesota State Student Association President Abdulrahmane Abdul-Aziz.
“The purpose of this annual Washington D.C. trip is to advocate for Minnesota State university students at the federal level,” said Faical Rayani, Students United state chair and MNSU student.
Over two days, students met with policy and lawmakers like Tom Emmer, Tim Walz, Amy Klobuchar’s staff and members of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee.
“A lot of the people we met did not know how students felt and had not interacted with students in their tenure in D.C.,” Rayani said. “Our visit provides them with perspective and puts a face to the students that legislators are impacting with their bills.”
In November 2017, the Students United board passed a federal legislative agenda which included the topics they advocated about: Title IX, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Federal Perkins Loan, expansion of the Pell Grant, and textbook affordability. Several of these topics came up in discussion of Students United’s opposition to the Prosper Act, a bill that would reform government student aid programs for higher education.
“There is a perception of DC that is ruthless, selfish and hard-headed. The truth is, people in DC are just out trying to live their best lives and doing what they believe is the right thing,” Rayani said. “They don’t know everything and they don’t always make the right decisions, but people in D.C. are mostly kind, good people trying to do what’s best for the country.”
In addition to meeting with lawmakers, Students United also met with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC).
“[AASCU] are a group that represents public higher education institutes in the United States and provides support for them. Often they share the same legislative agenda with us and are big allies of us,” Rayani said.
Rayani said Students United hopes to increase the budget for its annual advocacy trip. The NCLC provides advocacy resources for students and Students United is planning to collaborate with the organization.
“Education is the building block for understanding and understanding is the building for prosperity and peace,” Rayani said.
Photo: (Courtesy of Students United)