Students Meet with Legislators for a Cause: NYS Advocacy Day

by, Nicole Fitzsimmons, News Editor

Manhattan College students were given a chance to voice their opinions and concerns regarding the status of financial aid in New York State to legislators during Advocacy Day on February 8th and 9th.

An event that is usually held in-person, New York State Advocacy Day was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, students from across New York State were given a chance to speak with local representatives about funding for tuition and opportunity programs.

“Each year NYSACAC members are encouraged to meet with their legislators in Albany to advocate for student aid, resources for college counseling, and legislation that will lower barriers to college access and success for students across the state,” stated the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling’s website.

During these discussions with legislators, students are able to tell stories about their own experiences, and share why aid is so important to them. No advocacy experience is needed, and it is usually a rally-like environment of students advocating for a cause. These issues are extremely important as state and local budgets are facing cuts.

On the event’s website, students this year were able to submit video or written testimonials to show support for student aid funding and higher education as well.

For Manhattan, it was important to students to voice their concern over the cutting of Bundy funding, which provides aid to private universities. Other concerns included maintaining direct TAP and HEOP funding, along with aid from CSTEP AND HEOP.

Opportunity programs are also greatly impacted by state funding. Director of Opportunity Programs, Andy Burns, addresses the importance of maintaining funding for programs that can greatly promote inclusivity for all students at Manhattan.

“These programs are partnerships between the College and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the funds received allows us to enhance services to eligible students. Opportunity Programs complement our Lasallian values and heritage, and why there is such a commitment to these efforts from students and administrators alike,” Burns said.

Giving students a chance to speak directly to local legislators allows for these government officials to see who the funding really helps, and allows legislators to hear from their constituents themselves.

“I think this is important because as costs increase, aid is important. State aid is important, you know, we want students to advocate for themselves. TAP hasn’t changed in over ten years, so when students advocate for themselves, this goes into their accounts,” Director of Financial Aid, Denise Scalzo, said.

Scalzo and Burns also emphasize how the programs and assistance from funding helps promote an inclusive community where all students can begin to close the gap between cost of attendance and help all students.

Students’ advocacy for these programs illustrates the importance they feel in being a student and experiencing the college environment. Beyond this, students from all backgrounds are represented and able to speak for themselves about why aid is important.

“The students are vested in these programs, along with their ability to secure a high-level degree from a private institution like Manhattan College. As such, they see the value and the necessity to advocate for themselves, and why we always get a strong turnout from students traveling to Albany in years past,” Burns said.