Ain’t no mountain high enough

by Andrea McNamara

When given the opportunity to “Visit the Hill” very few Simpson students found it necessary to show an interest in going. Only two students represented Simpson College at “Visit the Hill on Tuesday.

“The issues that we’re going to discuss are important to Simpson students,” said junior Josh Brown.

“I’m surprised that more students aren’t worried about it,” said junior Abby Smith, student body vice president. “This is just a one day event [“Visit the Hill”], the lobbying never stops.”

One of two main issues discussed at “Visit the Hill” was the Iowa Tuition Grant. Roughly 900 Simpson students use the Iowa Tuition Grant.

“It’s easy to complain, but if you don’t speak up nothing will ever happen,” said Kara May, associate director of admissions at Simpson. This year when many students experienced a cut in their Iowa Tuition Grant they complained until the state “scrounged up” the $400 per student instead of signing up to “Visit the Hill” and initiating change prior to significant cuts in the grant.

“It’s important for students’ voices to be heard,” said Tracie Pavon, assistant vice president for enrollment and financial assistance. “They [legislators] listen to the voices that vote for them”

Pavon said the Iowa Tuition Grant is continually cut due to the state’s budget crisis. “Visit the Hill” is in its sixth year and is bigger than ever. In past years the only people in attendance were from The Iowa Association of Financial Aid Administrators, The Iowa School Counseling Association, The Iowa Counseling Association, The Iowa Educational Media Association and The Iowa Parent Teacher Association.

This year students from Iowa institutions of higher education such as The University of Iowa, Iowa State University, DMACC, Drake University, AIB and Simpson College were all invited to attend this educational event.

As of Friday, Jan. 31, there were 105 students signed up to attend “Visit the Hill.”

“This is a great experience for students,” said Pavon.

She explained that in the morning everyone attends informational discussions and becomes educated on both issues to be discussed. Later in the day students and various other attendants break apart and attend round table discussions with legislators.

There were two main points of interest at “Visit the Hill” this year. The reinstatement of school counselor and media specialist standards and student financial aid such as The State of Iowa Scholarship, Iowa Tuition Grant, Iowa Vocational-Technical Grant and Iowa Regent University Funding.

The reinstatement of school counselor and media specialist standards has become a topic of interest over the past few years. A few years ago school counselor and media specialist standards were removed from the Iowa Code.

According to the current standards, if a school is in debt and needs to cut a few positions, librarians and school counselors are the first to go. It’s no longer mandatory for Iowa schools to employ librarians or counselors.

According to Pavon, many schools across Iowa only have part time guidance counselors now due to Iowa’s budget crisis.

If all goes well, the school counselor and media specialist standards will be reinstated into the Iowa code and state legislators will realize just how much students care when the money promised to them through the Iowa Tuition Grant is cut shortly before the holiday season.

“Although results of ‘Visit the Hill’ aren’t immediate, we can hope for the best,” said Pavon. “We won’t know what will happen to the Iowa Tuition

Grant until the end of the session in April.”

Soon Simpson College will promote a letter writing campaign, and it is strongly recommended that everyone participate in one way or another.

“If you can tell a story that they will remember, it will make a difference,” said Pavon. “They want to hear the true story of someone who votes and is affected by the decisions they make.”