By Mack Olmsted, Asst. Production Editor
New York State Advocacy Day gathered private school students from across the state in a virtual forum with state legislators to discuss their greatest concerns regarding the state’s financial aid programs. The event ran from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2.
Advocacy Day is about students fighting for financial aid programs such as the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP), the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP/C-STEP), the Liberty Partnerships Program (LPP) and the Direct Institutional (“Bundy”) Aid. All of these programs are created to help college students have help when it comes to paying for college education.
Advocacy Day was held virtual this year, as it was last year due to COVID-19 precautions. The space was an open forum for students to thank the legislators for their time, the various increases passed on financial aid, advocate to expand funding and to tell their stories on why student aid and opportunities programs matter to them.
Rose M. Doyle, executive assistant to the general council, believes that Advocacy Day is a great bridge between college students and state legislators who are a part of the financial aid process.
“The legislators or the representatives from what I can tell were very welcoming, and supportive towards student aid for NY students. I believe they listened to the students, took notes and had genuine reactions to the concerns,” Rose Doyle wrote in an email to the Quadrangle.
During Advocacy Day, students and legislators discussed the different opportunity programs that New York state offers. The opportunity programs offered by the state impact students and can help them when it comes to paying for college and managing their expenses.
Every year, decisions are made by New York state legislators on whether or not they should continue the financial aid programs the way that they are running.
Margaret Groarke, Ph.D., political science professor and coordinator of community engaged learning, explained why Advocacy Day is such an important event for students to go to as a means of exercising freedoms and using your voice to see real impact. Groarke mentioned how students come from all different backgrounds and how it is important to come together as a community to advocate for the school’s funding.
“As a political science professor, I think it’s a great opportunity for students to engage in some real grassroots lobbying and see what that’s like and meet some of the legislators,” Margaret Groarke said.
Groarke later explained some of the current problems students face when dealing with financial aid.
“Tuition goes up every year because costs go up every year. But the TAP Grant was the same as it was 10 years ago. So it was less useful to a student in helping them pay their tuition.” Groarke said.
Kayla Reyes is a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering who is a part of one of the financial aid programs, C-STEP. Reyes explained why she participated and how she felt about the event.
“I came from a background where money would typically be the problem, and even now I still struggle with it [financial aid],” Reyes said. “It definitely got really personal for me when I realized I could be the voice, to get more money for our school, to get more money for opportunity programs for other people like me who are in the program and need the money really badly. Long story short, it hit close to home.”
Reyes thought it was important to participate and made sure that she went to the event. She believed through Advocacy Day that students could be heard and tell their stories on why their school needs the funding. Reyes believes more people should participate and that it could have a great impact on the school as a whole.
“I would hope that in the future that we do have more people in Manhattan College students come and advocate because little things like this, have the chance to make a really big change. So I just hope that more people come next time,” Reyes said.
Doyle wanted to inform the public about the future regarding Advocacy Day in the era of COVID-19. A previously in-person event, she hopes these advocacy events will be in Albany again soon.
“This is the second year Advocacy Day was virtual and is still an effective way to take steps to increasing student aid, but we all look forward to meeting in person next year,” Doyle said. “It’s a great feeling to have busloads of students and staff in Albany raising awareness, and our calendars are marked for February. 14, 2023. The more we speak up about the importance of funding I believe change will be made.”