As the threat of fee increases looms over students in response to state and federal deficits, they are not voiceless. They have Lobby Corps on their side.
A subcommittee of Associated Students Inc., Lobby Corps advocates on behalf of Cal State Fullerton and the CSUs at the state and federal levels. They remain in constant contact with local politicians in order to provide a face for CSUF in the political sphere.
As the chair of the Lobby Corps subcommittee, Gregory Washington sets the agenda for Lobby Corps. His responsibilities include drafting position statements, meeting with legislators of both the state and federal government, as well as working with local media.
â€œWe kind of put a face to the stories. We kind of put a face to what higher education is and we get to really represent our students and give (legislators) that perspective,â€ said Washington, a senior political science major, ASI chief governmental officer and chair of Lobby Corps.
â€œAs a non-profit organization we advocate on behalf of students as far as sustainability, availability and quality of education,â€ said public relations coordinator Ivan Rousselle, a senior business major.
Even though ASI is non-profit, it doesnâ€™t limit its ability to lobby effectively. Rouselle cites CSUFâ€™s 35,000 students as the source of its clout.
â€œOut of the bills that we supported and lobbied for, 11 out of 14 of them actually were passed by the (state) legislature and signed into law by the governor,â€ Washington said.
The main focus of Lobby Corps advocacy is directed toward the state government.
â€œOur institution is largely state funded, so we are always going to the state legislator to try to get more money in terms of Cal Grants, more money in terms of state support and also really just to represent the student voice above all else,â€ Washington said.
Lobby Corps represents the student voice through monthly meetings with local politicians. ASI even sends some members of Lobby Corps to Wasington, D.C., in order to advocate for CSUF on federal issues.
Washington just returned from a trip to D.C. last week. He went with members of the CSU Chancellorâ€™s Office and CSUFâ€™s President Milton Gordon in order to speak up in defense of Pell Grants.
â€œBecause of the changeover in the House of Representatives and the movement toward more constraint on federal funding, one of the largest areas that are likely to be affected are Pell Grants. (They are) a really large part of the federal budget that is accessible to cuts,â€ Washington said.
The Pell Grant program provides needs-based grants to low-income students. According to Washington, a large percentage of students benefit from this financial aid program.
â€œA lot of our students, somewhere in the neighborhood of about 12,000, actually receive Pell Grant funding. So itâ€™s going to be something (that has) a substantial effect (on) our students,â€ Washington said.
Lobby Corpsâ€™ presence in California is much more extensive. On March 14 the subcommittee will be making a presence in Sacramento in collaboration with the California State Student Association, a state-wide advocacy group comprised of students from Californiaâ€™s public universities.
â€œItâ€™s a large-scale demonstration that we do at the Capitol to show the impact of students. Itâ€™s a pretty big event; weâ€™re expecting about 20,000 people to be a part of it,â€ Washington said.
This is a prime time to lobby for a piece of the budget pie.
â€œWeâ€™re really going to be the last curtain call in this legislative cycle, so we have a great opportunity to express the student voice and really get in that last push before everything is done in Sacramento for the year,â€ Washington said.
CSUFâ€™s Lobby Corps is also one of the bigger political players in the CSU.
â€œWe have one of the strongest Lobby Corps in the (CSUs),â€ said Andrew Lopez, executive vice president of ASI and a senior communications major. Lopez is one of two CSUF representatives on the CSSA board.
According to Lopez, the subcommittee is also involved in advocating within the CSU, specifically on fee increases.
He encouraged students to get involved in the organization.
â€œItâ€™s a huge resource for students to use,â€ said Lopez. â€œWe allocate this money to provide these programs so that if students have any concerns with higher education or if they want to make their voice heard, or if they want to actively participate in any lobbying efforts, these programs will help them do that.â€
For more information on Lobby Corps, its positions on legislation and how to get involved, visit Asi.Fullerton.edu or the Titan Student Union, Room 207.