Students visit State Capitol to build relationships, put face to college experience

By Katherine Klingseis, katherine.klingseis@iowastatedaily.com

Building relationships with legislators and putting a “face” to the college experience were two important points students said they wanted to accomplish at Regents United Day at the Capitol Thursday.

Students from Iowa‘s Regents universities went to Des Moines to the Iowa Capitol for Regents United Day in order to talk to their local legislators and to experience the democratic process firsthand.

“We’re trying to build relationships with legislators,” said Ahna Kruzic, ISU Ambassador director and senior in sociology. “That helps them keep us in mind when they make decisions.”

ISU Ambassadors arranged for charter buses to take ISU students to the Capitol. Kruzic said an estimated 110 people road on two charter buses to Des Moines, with other ISU students going to Des Moines on their own.

“It’s pretty electric here,” said Ben McDonald, Board of Regents liaison for ISU Ambassadors and senior in agricultural business. “You can tell students care about why they’re here.”

Students went to the Capitol for several different reasons, but many students said they came because they were concerned with rising tuition and decreasing state funding. ISU Ambassadors distributed a handout to students that listed Iowa State’s cost of attendance and student loan information and the Regents university general education funding.

“The data is depressing,” said Chelsea Schmidt, ISU Ambassador and freshman in linguistics. “Some students are graduating with $30,000 in debt. Economically, monetarily, some degrees are just not worth it.”

Schmidt said it is important for students to tell legislators their personal stories and concerns.

Sen. Herman Quirmbach, who is also an ISU economics professor, said personal stories are very effective.

“Hearing about a first-generation student going to college, that’s powerful. That’s an American success story,” Quirmbach said. “There’s nothing like seeing a student, looking into their face and hearing their concerns.”

At a news conference during Regents Day, student leaders from the three Regent universities discussed why affordable education is important for Iowa’s future.

“Higher education must remain a priority if we are going to continue our place as a leader in the free world,” said Dakota Hoben, Government of the Student Body president and senior in agricultural business. “It is a significant importance that the legislature views education as an investment — an investment in tomorrow.”

ISU President Steven Leath also spoke at the press conference on behalf of all of the Regents universities’ presidents. He said he and the other university presidents were “extremely proud” of the students.

Leath also explained how students at the Regents universities’ students “are going to leverage and ensure that success of our state.” He said he and the other presidents feel obligated to ensure students high-quality education.

“[Legislators] need to hear from your mouth, in your words why you went to UNI, the University of Iowa and Iowa State,” Leath said. “Tell them about your aspirations. Tell them what you need while on campus to achieve your goals and aspirations.”

Student leaders also discussed Universities for a Better Iowa, a grassroots movement that aims to show Iowans the importance of the state’s public universities. The Kick-Off Event will be at 5 to 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

(Posted originally on Iowastatedaily.com on March 29, 2011)

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