A.S. Council travels to D.C. for USSA conference

    Four members of the A.S. Council traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend a United States Student Association board meeting Oct. 9. The USSA yearlong goals and strategies were finalized at the four-day meeting.

    The USSA is the only national student lobbying group on Capitol Hill. It works under the philosophy that education is a right and centers its main lobbying goals on furthering access to higher education.

    The purpose of UCSD’s membership in the organization is to “”ensure that issues that affect UCSD students in particular are addressed at the national level,”” said A.S. President Jenn Brown, who attended this weekend’s meeting along with A.S. Vice President Internal Kevin Hsu, A.S. Commissioner of Communications Navneet Grewal and Eleanor Roosevelt College Council Chair Harish Nandagopal.

    One of this year’s major agenda items is the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The legislation allocates the majority of federal money given to support higher education for the next several years. In lobbying for its reauthorization, the USSA is also calling for an increase in grant money for students, especially the Pell Grant as well as subsidized student loans.

    Brown said that USSA is lobbying for “”an institutionalization of the Pell Grant”” so that it becomes a permanent part of higher-education financial aid.

    According to Nandagopal, the USSA board was originally only going to support an increase in grant money, but he worked to include subsidized loans as well.

    “”A lot of people need these subsidized loans,”” Nandagopal said. By not pushing for more unsubsidized loans, Nandagopal said, “”it would just hurt a lot of the middle class.””

    Nandagopal said the push for unsubsidized loans will be strategic. The board decided to begin lobbying for more grants first, and then switch its position to more loans after securing an increase in grant money.

    Questions have been raised over the value of using student fees to pay for members of the A.S. Council to attend meetings out of state. Nandagopal said that students have told him it sounds like he is taking a vacation with student fees.

    “”I’m not going on vacation,”” Nandagopal said. “”It is basically meetings after meetings. It is coming back to school and having a paper due the next day. It is a sacrifice for UCSD.””

    Brown agreed with Nandagopal, maintaining that the trip to the capitol was not a vacation, but a service to UCSD students.

    “”This is, hands down, one of the most import things that this A.S. is involved in as far as advocacy for UCSD student rights,”” Brown said. “”In terms of lobbying, it gives UCSD a voice on a national level … students are getting [the trip funding] back because we help increase grants and financial aid.””

    According to Brown and Grewal, the four A.S. Council members flew in Economy Class and were allocated $15 per day for food. The four shared two rooms in a motel.

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