100 students from colleges across Virginia gathered together to call on the General Assembly to increase financial aid funding, as part of Virginia21’s Feb. 3 Lobby Day in Richmond.
Virginia21 is a non-profit organization that advocates for young people in the political process. Lobby Day was part of the group’s ongoing #FuelTheFuture campaign, which proposes to boost state financial aid funding by $83 million over the next two years.
“This year’s emphasis on student financial aid is especially important as the legislature makes budget decisions affecting college affordability,” State Council of Higher Education in Virginia Director Peter Blake said in an email. “Lobby Day brings together civic-minded students from all over the state to participate in the political process.”
The funds would largely go toward financial aid for low and middle-income Virginia families sending children to public 4-year institutions and community colleges. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recently proposed a $48 million increase in state spending on financial aid, a financial boost supported by Virginia21.
President of James Madison University’s Virginia21 chapter Helen Land noted that the rise in tuition costs has caused many lower income students to take on more shifts to put themselves through college.
“This prevents many students from graduating on time, and drives us into even deeper debt,” Land said in an email. “Virginia21’s lobby day gives students an opportunity to give these issues a face, and will hopefully push financial aid to the forefront of their agenda.”
For many of the students who attended Lobby Day, financial aid is a highly personal cause.
“I would not be able to attend William and Mary without financial aid,” College of William and Mary student and Virginia21 member Trinity Torres said in an email. “It is imperative that Virginia legislators support the increase for financial aid to ensure that students can get a good education. Lobby Day brought a face to an issue that affects the lives of thousands of Virginia students who rely on the state’s help to earn their degree. It was a great experience to not only meet legislators, but to tell them my story.”
President of the College of William and Mary’s Virginia21 chapter Lea Booth explained that Lobby Day signaled to lawmakers that students are politically aware of happenings in Richmond.
“Our advocacy efforts remind our elected officials that addressing the needs of young people is good for the Commonwealth and should remain a priority,” Booth said in an email.