Rep. Davis discusses higher education

    Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-San Diego) met with a small group of UCSD students on April 12 to talk about current issues in higher education. After the forum, the San Diego Israel Alliance hosted a dinner with Davis and other student organizations to discuss ways to increase communication between the groups.

    Hosted by Associated Students, the forum allowed students and Davis to discuss the range of challenges facing higher education. According to Davis, the main problems are focused around the inadequate funds.

    “Part of what everyone is grappling with is a limited pot of money,” Davis said. “My greatest concern is that, for young people, they will find that maybe [education] will be a harder road than they thought.”

    The forum focused on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the legislation that allows the federal government to provide federal aid to college students. The bill determines allocations for federal programs such as the Pell Grants and Stafford Loans. According to Davis, Congress is looking into how financial aid should be awarded through Pell Grants and whether entitlement or eligibility should be raised.

    “We really need to support [students], and I think we need to support education to a greater extent,” Davis said. “I’m really dismayed with what’s happening right now. The fact that more students are possibly going to be discouraged to attend a university … that’s not the direction we should be going.”

    A member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Davis spoke about concerns brought up in Congress, including online classes and whether there should be caps on fee increases. According to Davis, another concern is ways in which students can consolidate their loans.

    “One problem is that if Congress wants to maximize the amount students can borrow, the idea is that we don’t want you to find yourselves in over your heads in terms of payment,” Davis said.

    Students asked Davis questions that included standardized testing and the priorities put on research in universities. For Sixth College sophomore Myles Stone, the area of research versus education was among the most interesting topics discussed at the forum.

    “There’s a lot of money going to research right now, and I wanted to see if there’s any chance that we could transfer that money to student services,” Stone said.

    According to A.S. Director of University Relations Jared Feldman, an organizer of the event, the informal forum permitted the students and Davis to achieve a greater understanding of today’s key problems in higher education.

    “It was a nice and intimate setting that really allowed students to interact with their representative completely unhindered,” Feldman said. “We were able to facilitate discussion to help us understand at the federal level the issues in education, and for her to understand what’s going on at the campus level.”

    ASUCSD will host a similar forum on April 23 with State Sen. Dede Alpert (D-San Diego). Alpert currently serves as the chair of the joint committee on the master plan for education and as the chair for the appropriations committee in the California Senate.

    At the dinner held after the forum, Davis spoke about how student organizations can improve communication with one another. Those who attended the dinner included representatives from Interpraise Christian Council, the Coalition for South Asian People, the Armenian Student Association and Students for Democracy and Peace.

    Davis spoke about the difficulties of trying to work with people with differing viewpoints. She cited experience working with people in different political parties and how activities such as traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed her and other members of Congress to share a common experience. Davis suggested planning an event together in order to create more interaction with one another.

    “I think it’s a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of relationship building,” Davis said. “Try and plan together something to go see, an issue that you can visually encounter together with the same eyes, at the same time, hearing the same things.”

    Participating students expressed interest in coordinating such an event that would bring together the different student organizations. Some suggested holding a film series that would showcase the cultural backgrounds of the organizations.

    According to San Diego Israel Alliance President Diane Meskin, the event allowed her to get to know students from the other organizations. Meskin said that the event gave participants the opportunity to share ideas about maintaining an organization and advice on retention and programming.

    “I’m really happy with how [the event] went,” Meskin said. “It seemed like the event was really well-received all around, and a lot of the participants thanked us for including them, expressing that they hope to work with us in the future.”

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