Students lobby for more tuition assistance programs

Students from St. John’s joined their peers from across New York State to speak directly to legislators about college finance programs at the Student Aid Alliance Lobby Day on Feb. 8.

Student Aid Lobby Day is an annual event that takes place at the state capital building in Albany.  At the event, individual students make presentations about their ideas on the financial services offered by the State. Students who receive New York

State financial aid or tuition assistant programs (TAP) can speak to the assembly about their personal experiences with the education system and how financial aid has made a difference to their situation.  

St. John’s has been attending this event for years.  Brian Browne, assistant vice president of Government Relations, organizes free registration and transportation for all university students  and alumni interested in participating.  

“I think it’s important for all students to get involved and go to this event,” said Browne, “I just introduce the students to the legislation, but then the students take it upon themselves to present their reasons for needing TAP.”

Thousands of St. John’s students receive financial awards from TAP and various other services.  Browne believes that it is essential for students to advocate for financial aid because for many students getting an education isn’t possible without it.  

This year a dozen St. John’s students attended the event to plead their case.  

“I’ve gone every year for the past three years,” said Jayson Castillo, a recent St. John’s graduate.  “I would have never been able to accomplish the things that I have now without a St. John’s degree, and I highly doubt I would have been able to get a St. John’s degree without TAP.”

Every year the government decides how much money TAP can offer to each student, and if there needs to be budget cuts made to the endowment.  

“As of right now, the state government has decided to leave TAP alone, which is good,” explained Browne, “but they have until April 1 2011 to negotiate the terms between the Senate, the Assembly and the governor of New York.”

The state government may only have two months to discuss the terms, but there are a lot of other factors that go into the decision.  While TAP isn’t currently facing any budget cuts, many other services aren’t as lucky, such as police pensions and

New York public schools. Browne said the government has to weigh their options, and decide what they think is best for the majority of New Yorkers as a whole.  

Browne advised students that weren’t able to attend the event to find another way to express their opinions.  

“Technology has made everything so much easier,” he said, “you could call legislation or email your local elected official and present your personal case.  Everyone’s voice is able to be heard in this system.”