On Thursday February 16th 2012, six SGA students drove from JMU to Virginia’s capital city to lobby with Virginia State legislatures. Our agenda started early in the morning with us attending over seven meetings with VA Senators and delegates to discuss the lack of financial aid offered to college students.
We teamed up with the lobbyist group Virginia CAN (College Access Network) who were the leaders of the Virginia21 campaign. Their main purpose was to poll students asking them for the amount of debt they will have by the end of their college years. After a total of 10,000 signatures, with JMU contributing over 1,400 of them, the average Virginia college student’s post-graduate debt surmounted to over $100,000.
The experience was very exciting for me because I had never been involved with the state legislature at such a personal level. This trip was my first lobbying experience but was not for sophomore Legislative Action committee chair, Shevy Chaganti and fellow committee member, sophomore Ben Copper. Their previous experience helped newcomer lobbyist Courtney Herb, a freshman in JMU’s student government organization, as well as myself. We learned to personally connect with each Senator and delegate and to seek out our own local constituents while attempting to persuade them about our financial aid problems.
We ultimately wanted the VA education budget to get revamped in hopes of utilizing every penny the state gives college institutions. In comparison to previous Richmond lobbying trips, Shevy believes that this one was the most effective trips SGA has taken. Later on this semester, a larger group of SGA students will be representing James Madison University in Washington D.C.
Left to right: Rachel Francis, Courtney Herb, Taylor Vollman, Shevy Chaganti, Ben Copper and Brian Estep