SALEM – Approximately 75 students from several Oregon universities, including Portland State, went to the state capitol Monday to lobby for several bills facing the Oregon Legislature.
The Lobby Day was organized by the Oregon Student Association (OSA) and drew groups of students from PSU, Oregon State University, University of Oregon, Western Oregon University, Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University and Lane Community College.
The OSA and the many students came to lobby for or against several house and senate bills, including House Bill 437, which would remove the state Legislature from the budget process for the Oregon University System (OUS). This would give OUS complete control over its budget, effectively disabling the student voice.
Students also spoke out against HB5027, which would cut $30 million dollars from fee remissions in all OUS schools.
Fee remissions are campus-based aid programs used for need-based aid, diversity and merit scholarships. Members of the OSA expressed concerns that such a cut would rescind aid and scholarships from as many as 5,000 students, possibly forcing some of them to discontinue their education.
Students argued that fee remissions increase access to higher education, especially for low-income and underrepresented students.
Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, said she was in support of continuing the fee remission program and would fight to maintain it.
Students lobbied in favor of Senate Bill 10, which would extend in-state tuition fees to any graduate of an Oregon high school, even if the student’s parents did not have legal United States residency.
While representatives in Salem remain divided over the bill, most agreed it would probably never make it to the floor, speculating it would fall apart in committee.
The Student Child Care Block Grant, which provides financial assistance to student parents, garnered support from students, as did the Oregon Opportunity Grant, which also provides financial assistance to applicable students.
The day began Monday morning with a welcome to the capitol by Rep. Mary Nolan D-Portland.
Smaller groups of students then went through an overview of the various bills and performed a practice role-played lobby session.
Miriam Gonzales, state affairs director with ASPSU, ran one session and urged the students in her group to be respectful, but also to make sure they got their message across.
Around 12:30 p.m., during a break in the rainy weather, students gathered on the front steps of the capitol building for a rally. Many of them, including Wolfie, held up signs in support of higher education.
Speakers at the rally included several representatives, OUS Chancellor Richard Jarvis and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem.
Jarvis hopes to at least maintain access to higher education as it is, and is fighting against the proposed cuts to fee remissions.
Rep. Steve March, D-Portland, promised not to vote on any budget that cut education at any level, “from birth to the grave.”
“We’re not going to get 100 percent of everything,” March said, “but we want to get as much as we can.”
Photos of the event are available at www.dailyvanguard.com.