CSUN A.S. to lobby for Pell Grant

Samantha Tata

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A.S. Vice President Neil Sanchez discusses reports on potential budget outcomes that he presented to A.S. during Tuesday’s meeting. Photo Credit: Tessie Navarro / Staff Photographer

CSUN President Jolene Koester and A.S. Vice President Neil Sanchez with California State Student Association (CSSA) will lobby for students’ health care, approval of the Dream Act and the maintenance of Pell Grants in Washington, D.C.

Koester, Sanchez and the CSSA will present their concerns March 1 and 2 to the staff members of California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, as well as the staff of various state representatives.

“In my personal opinion, Pell Grants are the (main) lobbying point,” Sanchez said.

CSUN freshmen are the second largest recipients of Pell Grants in California with 42 percent of students receiving aid, trailing only CSU Fresno with 47 percent, according to Education Trust’s 2008 data.

President Obama’s budget proposal noted that it had to make “tough choices” to avoid a $20 billion deficit of the Pell Grant program in 2012.

Potential changes would eliminate year-round eligibility and interest subsidy on graduate and professional loans.

Maximum Pell Grants will remain  $5,500 but students will no longer be able to apply twice a year, during both the spring and fall semesters, for the assistance.  The grant will be available just once per year.

Sanchez said that CSUN is also one of the top leaders nationally in Pell Grant recipients.  He provided senate members with state and federal budget information, and briefs about CSU and UC budgets and encouraged the senators to pass that knowledge along to the students they represent.

“I took a different direction in terms of encouraging people to be more informed about the budget,” he said.  “I wanted them to have immediate references.”

CSUN’s representatives will also lobby in favor of the Dream Act, a legislative measure that would afford children of undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship through enrollment in military or higher education, and the reworking of Obama’s health care bill.

In a special presentation made to the A.S. senate on Feb. 8, CSSA President Christopher Chavez explained the changes student health care could face if the legislative language is not changed.

“Much of the way campuses run their health care does not fit the definitions in the new bill,” said Chavez, a CSU Long Beach student.

Obama’s health care reform bill stipulates that only employers are allowed to provide the kind of discounted health care rates that college campuses offer and requires those employers to provide long-term care, a rule that campus health care providers cannot follow due to student graduation, Chavez said.