Notes on College Affordability Advocacy

As I was going through some old notebooks that I used at Arizona State University I stumbled upon some notes I jotted down about my ideas on advocating for college affordability. I thought that they might be interesting or useful to some of you. I decided to post them here in more-or-less the way I found them.

College Affordability Advocacy

Have comprehensive statistics and data pertaining to college affordability:

  • Student debt
  • Loan and credit card interest rates
  • Financial aid
  • Inflation

Pay attention to and involve smaller schools and satellite campuses. Too often advocacy organizations only focus on the largest universities and campuses, ignoring those with smaller enrollments. Within those campuses there is untapped potential.

Media report for every city with a College/University and where there is a large concentration of students’ parents.

  • Name of media
  • Contacts
  • Filing deadline/cycle
  • Readership
  • frequency of publication
  • editorial board structure
  • LTE policy and process

As a student advocacy organization it is important to not be an organization that solely creates a slogan and some shirts every year hoping that they will be clever enough to forestall a tuition increase or cuts in education funding. If you have a lobbying organization, it needs to be a lobbying organization.

The primary strategy of a student lobbying organization should be to affect the elections of state legislators. When a legislator decides that they are going to vote to cut financial aid or university funding, they will be targeted. In order to successfully do this, you must have in-depth profiles of their legislative districts and the legislator’s election history:

  • Demographic information for the district: age, high schools, voter registration numbers, income levels, etc.
  • Legislators election history: How many terms served? Margin of victory in past elections. Legislator’s party ID vs. party registration numbers and performance.

It is important that there are people in your organization who have the responsibility of tracking pertinent legislation and the state budget so you know what is coming down the pipeline and how legislators voted on student issues. You can set up a legislator rating system similar to those used by other advocacy organizations.

The organization should not only focus on organizing the students, but also the families of those students. It should work with high school students in the state and reach out to their families as well, for they will shortly be faced with putting themselves or their daughter/son through college. It should work to build a coalition of supporters from across the state that believe in the importance of higher education; everyone who believes that a student should not have to base their decision to go to college on whether they can afford it; everyone who believes that higher education is critical to the well-being of the people of your state and its economy.