In this guide, you will find information on how to make your voice heard in the Fight for Financial Aid. Organizing a rally, visiting with your member of Congress, posting on social media – all of these are opportunities to educate people about the importance of federal student aid and motivate them to get involved. This guide is designed for the use of a broad community of student aid advocates, including institutions, students and student governments, and community leaders.
The first step is to form a coalition on your campus. A diverse group of people who all derive some sort of benefit from federal student aid programs will send a stronger message, and give your group more credibility with members of Congress and the media. For example, college presidents have access to opinion leaders and legislators that students simply don't have. At the same time, students are the beneficiaries of the aid programs and provide the sheer numbers of people that are critical in this debate. Members of the faculty and administration, trustees, and parents have a natural interest in the preservation of student aid, as well as valuable talents and contacts. Small business owners, members of the local chamber of commerce, and presidents of service clubs bring additional access to political leaders, and broaden the argument for federal student aid programs.
Large parts of your community may not know about the proposed cuts to federal student aid. Consider different ways to engage and educate campus administrators, students, faculty, staff, and community members. Social media can be a powerful tool in information disbursement. Use #Fight4FinAid on Facebook and Twitter to elevate the broader campaign.
Keep all information clear and consistent. All literature should be simple and focus on how cuts to federal aid will affect students, and what people on your campus can do to be part of the effort to save student aid. You should create fact sheets showing how the cuts would affect your student body. (You can use NASFAA’s Budget Effect Estimator (BEE) tool to get the numbers for your institution.) NASFAA’s Fight for Financial Aid page includes a variety of tools and resources, including a printable budget fact sheet.
Make sure everyone has access to information on the budget process. Use NASFAA’s Federal Budget and Appropriations page to find more information on the budget process and a news archive.
Here are three ways to get the word out through the media:
Bring a Member of Congress to Campus. Members of Congress are usually anxious to meet the people whose lives are affected by their votes-and when they do, the experience often remains with them for many years. Invite your member of Congress, and the staff responsible for higher education issues, on campus and show them the human face of student aid. Work with your institution's government relations office to coordinate your activities.
When you invite a member of Congress to campus it is critical that you begin planning well in advance. Getting them to attend depends on your level of organization. Members are very busy. The sooner you plan your event the better, as their schedules fill up rapidly. Contact the district office and ask to speak with the scheduler. Make the invitation, then follow up with a confirmation letter. Be prepared to be flexible on the date, and plan for last-minute cancellations –– the legislative calendar often changes with little notice.
Visit Your Representatives. A visit with a member of Congress works both ways. Anytime you travel to Washington, D.C., be sure to schedule a meeting with your member of Congress or the staff members responsible for higher education issues. Members often have more time for constituents during congressional recesses when they visit their district office(s). Maintaining a steady dialogue with them--even when there are no pending votes--will benefit your campus and the cause of federal student aid in the long run.
Call, Email, or Write Letters. The simplest way to contact your member of Congress is to write a letter, send an email, or make a call to their office. Because it is the simplest way to contact a member of Congress, a variety of constituents send mass emails and letters and jam phone lines. Letters, emails, and calls should be brief, concise, and neat. State your message clearly at the start (''I'm contacting you because I want you to support continued funding for federal student aid"). Then, most importantly, give the details of your personal story (''I am attending college today because of the federal student aid I receive"). Keep it short, and don't forget to provide your contact information. You can find contact information for your member of Congress here: Find Your Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and Contact Information for U.S. Senators.
The Student Aid Alliance has developed a Write Your Legislator tool to automatically submit emails to your members of Congress on the importance of student aid.
Consider holding an event on your campus or in your community in support of student aid, such as a rally, a town hall, or forum. Whatever event you plan for your campus, make sure it generates media attention, delivers the message to Congress, and involves diverse groups. Congress won't hear one voice, but it will hear a coalition of voices in support of student aid. Together we can send our message from around the country, loud enough to be heard on Capitol Hill. Only you can decide what events will work best on your campus. Be creative in devising ways for people to show Congress how important student aid is to them. Visit our Holding an Effective Rally in Support of Student Aid page for more suggestions.
Publication Date: 8/2/2017