Before, During and After College: Now’s The Time For Constituents To Raise College Affordability Concerns With State Legislators

Anyone concerned about postsecondary education affordability should be a political activist. And right now is a critical time to get active with state legislators.

Legislators are significant players in college affordability. They set the rules governing public college and university tuition rates. They allot state money to such institutions, which influences tuition and fees. Legislators also vote for or against authorizing new state grant, loan, scholarship, and work-study programs. They also pass or reject amendments to those programs’ rules and provide their funding.

Why now? All 50 of legislatures meet this year. In fact, 43 have already convened (find your legislature’s start date by clicking here). And the National Conference of State Legislatures reports that over 23% of this year’s legislators are new. All that “fresh blood” paves the way for innovate, original approaches to college affordability, but it’s important to communicate affordability concerns, ideas and recommendations to legislators early and often.

Want to research bills that could affect postsecondary affordability? Click here to access an online policy watchlist maintained by the Education Commission of the States (ECS). This list covers bills in all 50 states that could affect K-12 and postsecondary education. It’s updated to include new legislation that gets introduced, then it shows where those measures are in the legislative process. It also links to the texts and summaries of bills.

As this week began, the ECS policy watch list showed 111 bills in 17 different legislatures about issues related to postsecondary affordability — everything from college savings plans to free college plans to student loan forgiveness. There were also 57 bills in 13 legislatures that, if approved, could create new financial aid programs or modify existing student aid plans.

How to “lobby” state representatives and senators? Here are some simple tips:

1. Unsure about who those lawmakers are? Click right here for a link to state legislative websites through which they can be located;

2. Band together with other like-minded people. There’s great strength in numbers;

3. Visit legislators face to face — in their district offices, at their town hall meetings, or at the capitol. Appointments are recommended;

4. Phone them at their capitol offices. These conversations will probably be with staff members, but they report call to their bosses, so that’s OK;

5. Send emails or letters; and

6. Be sure all communications — verbal and written — are clear, demonstrate knowledge of the issues, and include a straightforward “ask” about what you want them to do.

So now’s the time for those worried about college affordability to lobby the state legislatures they elected. It’s their right. And it’s the only way to keep postsecondary education from becoming too expensive for most Americans to afford.

Contact College Affordability Solutions for help designing your own personal College Finance Plan. Students, ex-students and their parents pay nothing for such consultations with College Affordability Solutions.

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