Public Policy News: ACUI and public policy

Public Policy News: ACUI and public policyBrett Perozzi and Lincoln Johnson2004-01-0153Association Newsfalse

ACUI's strategic plan (2000) outlines four major goals to be achieved by the year 2005. One of those goals is to "be a public policy advocate for creating an increasingly favorable environment for campus community builders" (p. 15). ACUI has been working toward this goal by establishing a number of mechanisms and communication venues designed to keep the membership informed, updated, and involved.

Most notably, ACUI has entered into a consortium with four other higher education associations. The membership of the Consortium on Government Relations for Student Affairs (CGRSA) consists of ACUI, American College Personnel Association (ACPA), Association for Student Judicial Affairs (ASJA), and NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. For the past two years the consortium has contracted for governmental affairs consulting services with the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge. In October 2003, CGRSA changed firms and now works with a skilled legislative consultant who previously worked in student affairs. This intimate knowledge of what we do and the access afforded her through Hurt, Norton & Associates, Inc. has already proven beneficial for ACUI and the other consortium members.

Hurt, Norton & Associates are located in Washington, D.C. They represent student affairs issues with the U.S. federal government, collect information concerning legislation, and provide regular legislative updates to the consortium. The updates are posted to the ACUI Web site at www.acui.org under Resources, Public Policy.

The public policy arena will be particularly important this coming year as congress undertakes the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Conveniently, the ACUI annual conference is being held in Washington, D.C., in 2004. This presents a number of opportunities for member involvement in policy issues. The Conference Program Team, along with several other volunteers, is planning "A Day on the Hill." This program will expose students and staff to the legislative process. An educational program is planned as the kick-off event that will include our legislative liaison, Carol Holladay, and a member of congress to welcome the group and speak to pertinent issues in education. Holladay will speak about the process of interacting with congress members and will discuss potential talking points for individual meetings with representatives later in the program. This opportunity will be available to 40 staff members and 40 students, and all participants will be encouraged to set up meetings with their state or regional representatives prior to the conference.

Two of the most pressing policy issues for college unions and campus activities in the United States are the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Affordability in Higher Education Act of 2003. The Higher Education Act is reauthorized every five years and incorporates many aspects of higher education. For example, levels of federal grants, loans, and student work study are re-evaluated and debated.

Another bill before congress (H.R. 3311) at press time is being presented by Rep. Howard (Buck) McKeon, R-Calif. This legislation would introduce penalties and even the potential loss of government funding if institutions increase tuition and fees more than the annual Consumer Price Index for several consecutive years. In reference to new construction on college campuses including college unions, recreation centers, etc., McKeon was quoted by The New York Times (Winter, 2003) saying, "When colleges tell me that they can't control their costs and then they build this, I find it hard to believe." The legislation could have an impact on students' ability to tax themselves for new construction of facilities they desire.

Updated Nov. 9, 2012