Student Government at the Capitol Building 2010
By Tyler Preston, Student Government President
UAS Student government recently concluded hosting the annual UA Legislative Affairs Conference on February 23. It was an all-weekend event orchestrated by UAS and the Coalition of Student Leaders from across the UA system to lobby for the inclusion of need-based aid in Governor Parnell’s scholarship.
As in past years, the weekend kicked off with a luncheon for the Alaskan Legislature - discussions at the tables between student leaders and the legislators ranged from need-based aid and the UA Budget request to deferred maintenance and the proposed Life Sciences building in Fairbanks.
Twin petitions from UAS Senate President Tyler Preston and Coalition Speaker Peter Finn in the Senate Education Committee cut to the chase. They spoke in support of the committee substitution (of bill language) that was introduced by Murray Richmond, an aide in Senator Thomas’ office.
In short, the new legislation would take the governor’s three-tiered plan and change it into a two-tiered one, with a performance-based component balanced by a need- based component. The funding from the two plans would not be linked (i.e. a student wouldn’t have to receive the performance scholarship to be eligible for the need-based one).
Finn noted that as of 2008, Alaska had a 7.9% college participation rate among low-income students, which placed the state last in the country for low-income attendance, a position that it has held for sixteen years. UAS Senator David House introduced a 2005 study from the US Dept. of Education. It shows that nationally, 29% of high-scoring, low-income students can attain bachelor degrees, roughly the same as their low-scoring, high-income counterparts.
Student leaders spent the remainder of the next two days rushing from one legislator’s office to the next on a round of appointments, each petitioning their representatives to lend support to the bills that would implement a need-based scholarship program in Alaska, punctuated on Monday afternoon by a meeting with the UA Booster’s Caucus, a group of legislators who have assembled to help support University and student needs within the Legislature.
As a result of the weather UAA and UAF delegations were unable to attend the majority of the conference. They will be in Juneau March 9-12, when UAS student government will be hosting a small gathering for them.