Students from all 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) went to Harrisburg for PASSHE Advocacy Day on Tuesday, April 16 to talk to legislators about the importance of higher education.
Five representatives of approximately 30, according to Nick Imbesa, a Student Government Board representative and participant, went from KU.
Letecia Garcia, another Advocacy Day participant, was encouraged by Jennifer Hoover-Vogel of PASSHE’s External Relations to participate in PASSHE Advocacy Day.
Imbesi said SGB was approached by Bob Watrous, the Dean of Students, about the Advocacy Day opportunity.
“It is our job as SGB members to represent the student body, so it was just part of our daily job,” said Imbesi.
“All together, the group of students that participated was inspiring as many of them are current student leaders at their universities and were very well educated concerning the needs of their student body,” said Garcia.
PASSHE sent up appointments for the students to talk to the legislators in groups of advocacy teams in over 40 meetings. PASSHE targeted alumni of their schools or representatives with one of the schools in their districts.
KU students got to talk to State Senator Judy Schwank and Representatives Mark Rozzi, Mark Gullen and Gary Day in their offices in the Pennsylvania Capitol Building. Rozzi and Gullen are KU alumni, while Schwank and Day represent districts that include Kutztown.
“They were very welcoming to us,” said Imbesi. “Actually, Mark Rozzi let me sit at his desk.”
Joe Scoboria, an SGB representative and Advocacy Day participant, said he was not nervous to speak to Schwank and Rozzi, since he knew them as family friends. He had immediately volunteered to participate because he was “concerned with how the state is aiding our schools.”
The students’ main focus was the importance of funding for higher education.
According to a 2012 PASSHE financial statement, PASSHE received $52.4 million less in 2011-12 than in 2010-11. According to Imbesi, PASSHE provided charts to the students that showed how trends of funding changed in the past. In the 1960s, 75 percent of funding came from the state and 25 from the students; now 75 percent comes from the students and 25 from the state.
“We have a lot of students on campus who are already working one, two or three jobs so they can afford school and to me that is not very acceptable,” said Imbesi. “So we were trying to convey it that it is very hard for our students to build a resume, attend their academic classes and then also have to work two or three jobs because the state is not providing the funding that it once did.”
“Within each meeting, it was important for us to encourage those we spoke with to continue to invest in higher education,” said Garcia.
They shared individual students’ stories, including their own, in order to show the legislator the “trials and tribulations of being a student in 2013,” according to Garcia.
The students felt they got their point across to the legislators.
“I know our voices had been heard, and we as a team represented the university well,” said Scoboria.
“Many of the legislators that we spoke to received our message very well and were in agreement,” said Garcia. “I would personally like to thank Senator Schwank as well as Representative Rozzi for their continuing support of higher education.”
The students were also introduced to the full House Assembly of Pennsylvania state legislators.
By Emily Leayman