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UI leaders convene in D.C.

BY LILY ABROMEIT | NOVEMBER 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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A trip to Washington, D.C., fostered an opportunity for University of Iowa student representatives and UI officials to convene with officials and discuss how to better the opportunities and experiences of UI students.

Among the group making the trip to the Capitol Tuesday and Wednesday were President Sally Mason and UI Student Government and Executive Council for Graduate and Professional Students presidents and vice presidents.

“We had the chance to illustrate the University of Iowa’s statewide impact while promoting the university’s mission of providing a quality education at an affordable price,” Mason wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

UISG President Katherine Valde said the visit was a chance to thank the Iowa congressional delegation for support and to further the relationship between the UI and federal-government leaders.

“It’s important to build these relationships between students and the lawmakers [and] the university and politicians,” she said. “[It’s good] to operate and think about the issues that affect students at a federal level.”

Valde said the main issues focused around college affordability and examined the UI’s policies to help students graduate in four years.

Because a $4,000 tuition tax deduction is set to expire at the end of the year unless Congress takes action, Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa,  said keeping college affordable was an important topic.

“When students graduate, they should be focused on pursuing opportunities, not dealing with a mountain of debt,” he said in an email statement to The Daily Iowan. “We must keep college within reach of anyone who wants to attend … I will continue to fight … to help keep college costs reasonable.”

Executive Council President Ben Gillig said there was emphasis placed on the federal government’s role in supporting higher education.

“There are numerous variables at work, one of which is federal funding,” he said. “We [also] had various conversations with them about what we’re doing at the state level.”

While in Washington, Mason said, she was one of six university presidents invited to visit the White House in order to “discuss how to create more access to higher education for deserving students from low-income and under-represented backgrounds,” something she said the UI does well.

In addition, the UI student lobbyist group Hawkeye Caucus traveled to Washington to showcase the different colleges and groups on campus through an event Wednesday night.

“[It] allowed our colleges to show their reach across the state,” Mason said. “It is always great to be with our alumni and friends celebrating the wonderful achievements of this remarkable institution.”
Valde said variety among UI representatives was valuable to the conversations.

“President Mason [was there] to talk about policies, which she knows so well, and then having students there to make face time with lawmakers [was important],” she said. “We make up the university, and it’s important for them to hear stories directly from us.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan he is “encouraged” to see students so involved with issues such as student debt and college affordability.

“… UISG has been very involved with lawmakers at the state level — working to lower state tuition costs and directly affecting higher education policy,” he said. “I appreciate hearing directly from students on these matters and I’m impressed with the work and the leadership that … UISG has done.”


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