Students rally to have voices heard
Members of the University System Of Maryland Student Council lobby federal legislators
Published: Monday, February 3, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2014 23:02
Federal legislators often want the input of a wide variety of groups on the issue of education. The University System Of Maryland Student Councils (USMSC) traveled to our nation’s capital during early November 2013 to speak to Maryland’s federal legislators about topics of concern to students at Maryland’s public colleges and universities.
Among the topics that were considered were the affordability of college, funding for research, re-authorization of the Higher Education Act and the current lack of protection against sexual harassment for unpaid interns at the federal level.
The USMSC is composed of students from all twelve institutions and two regional higher education centers in the University System of Maryland. With such a diverse group of educational institutions to represent, much of the lobbying day was centered on huge issues facing higher-education students today.
Of large concern was the Higher Education Act, which was renewed in 2013. The Higher Education Act is a hugely important bill that covers almost all of the policies pertaining to student loans and how much money the federal government gives to schools.
As representatives of the tens of thousands of students in the University System, the council discussed the extreme importance of federal funds to their universities. Over the last few years, the federal government has had to make serious cuts in major programs in the name of lowering the deficit.
Strong voices from Maryland’s Congressional Delegation are needed to ensure these cuts do not hit Maryland’s universities too severely. With colleges continuing to spend more and more, tuition continues to rise in Maryland, and it could rise even higher if more cuts to research and grants come from the federal government.
Another issue that the USMSC focused heavily on was the current lack of protection against sexual harassment for unpaid interns at the federal level. As many UMBC students know, internships are a great way to build up a resume early on in their career.
However, there is little if any protection for unpaid interns who would bring a sexual harassment lawsuit at the federal level.
In a press release, Kimberly Solovy, USMSC Director of Governmental Affairs and Master of Social Work candidate at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, stated, “In an increasingly competitive global job market where many employers are looking for graduates with real-world experience from internships, we find it unacceptable that there are no federal protections for unpaid interns against sexual harassment.”
Federal policy towards higher education is very complex, and federal lawmakers must weigh different consequences when deciding which policies they will enact.