By Adam Schalke
In the midst of the ongoing budget debacle in Springfield, a small group of students from Roosevelt University went to the state’s capitol to partake in Student Advocacy Day and lobby for funding of higher education in Illinois on Thursday, April 20.
Student Advocacy Day is an annual event hosted by the Illinois Board of Higher Education to encourage college students to engage in the political process and talk to their elected officials about issues that matter most to them.
Roosevelt was one of many schools that went to Springfield to participate in this year’s Student Advocacy Day, alongside DePaul, Columbia College and Illinois State University, to name a few.
The Roosevelt students who went to Springfield prepared for the event by researching proposed legislation to fund higher education and bills from the Senate and House of Representatives that would restore MAP grants to Illinois’s students in need. The group also called their elected officials to try and schedule meetings in the capitol.
A feud between Republican governor Bruce Rauner and the Democratic-controlled supermajorities in the General Assembly has resulted in a nine-month long budget stalemate that has left many of the state’s services unfunded, particularly costs related to higher education.
There have been attempts by the General Assembly to override Governor Rauner’s vetoes of higher education appropriations bills, but the overrides usually fail in the House, where they tend to come up short of the 71 members needed to negate Rauner’s veto.
Legislators have busy schedules, so meeting with them was difficult for students. To add to the difficulty, other groups such as the Chicago Teacher’s Union and the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws were also present at the capitol that day, causing competition for the student lobbyists.
“The best thing you can do to be successful at Student Advocacy Day is to be flexible and be prepared, and I thought that we were flexible and we definitely were prepared,” said Justin Provo, one of Roosevelt’s student lobbyists. “That being said, we didn’t expect the massive number of protestors and organizations that were there that day, and that made it difficult to talk to our legislators.”
Israel Vargas, Director of Community Engagement in Government Relations at Roosevelt, also attended the trip to Springfield, serving as administrative support for the students.
“As we live our social justice mission, we move in numbers to let our elected officials know that we stand together in the belief that everyone should have access to education,” said Vargas.
Despite facing challenges in competing for attention, students walked away feeling like they had make some sort of an impact.