The Associated Students Lobby Committee (ASLC) recently traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby on behalf of the PCC student body. The trip took place on March 29, 2019 through April 2, 2019. The committee lobbied a total of six different bills to the members of Congress.
The selection of bills the committee chose were based on numerous events throughout 2018 that students provided input on. Prior to the D.C. trip, the committee also held a public advocacy event which helped inform students and gain feedback about the committee’s bill priorities.
“For example, in the fall semester we held a Food for Thought event where we asked students to share their main concerns about what they would like to see changed on campus,” Associated Students Vice President of External Affairs, Sadia Khan stated.
Before the trip, the ASLC stood behind their purpose by collecting the heartfelt stories of struggling students. These stories were to be brought to state and federal lawmakers to address solutions these bills aimed to solve.
“These stories are critical in securing a continual and determined commitment from lawmakers to serve the needs of our student body and the rest of the community college students in California and across the country,” Khan said.
About 20 meetings were arranged with educational policy staffers of Congress members such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Judy Chu. Each meeting with the staffers consisted of discussing the main goals of each bill and their potential impacts on community college students, as well as institutions of higher education at large.
Four bills were lobbied to the House of Representatives. These bills included: H.R.1298 – Higher Education Dream Act of 2019, H.R.1075 – FAFSA Fairness Act of 2019, H.R.640 – Student Aid Simplification Act and H.R.792 – Opportunities for Success Act of 2019.
The H.R.1298 bill protects students from any discrimination against DREAMers during the admissions process and in charging tuition. Undocumented students are protected from the release or selling of their personal information, otherwise institutions will pay the consequence of a fine.
The H.R.1075 bill allows students who are unable to provide parental information due to parental neglect, abandonment, abuse, homelessness and other extenuating circumstances identify as a “provisionally independent” student. This allows the student to submit FAFSA with a dependency override after answering a single screening question.
The H.R.640 bill would require the IRS to send a student’s tax return information to the Department of Education, which would elevate the convenience for students with special circumstances to receive financial aid.
The H.R.792 bill increases the funding of the federal work study program. This bill would require institutions to establish work-based learning programs to ensure students may partake in jobs directly relating to their career aspirations and goals.
The S.672 bill would include three things: extending the eligibility of the Federal Pell Grant to DREAMer students, it would increase College Completion Programs funding and it would repeal the suspension of financial aid eligibility under the Higher Education Act of 1965, for students with previously convicted drug-related offenses.
“As an advocate for the system-impacted students this would really really change our ability to perform well in school because students that I work with and work closely with are not able to obtain work-study jobs now because they may have a prior conviction and they may have to check that box,” board member of Formerly Incarcerated Radical Scholars Team, Laura Hayes stated.
Lastly, the S.1136 bill would increase the maximum Pell Grant award for the academic year of 2019-2020. The award would be adjusted in subsequent years in order to account for inflation. This bill would allow an increase of 12 to 15 total number of semesters where a student is able to receive the Federal Pell Grant.