NYPIRG travels to Albany for Higher Education Lobby Day


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Members of Buffalo State’s chapter of NYPIRG went to Albany Feb. 25

Maris Lambie, Staff Writer

On Thursday Feb. 25, SUNY Buffalo State’s NYPIRG chapter took 17 students to Albany for its Higher Education Lobby Day.

Buffalo State’s NYPIRG chapter met with other chapters across the state to discuss with legislatures issues with higher education affordability. There were 450 students and faculty members from different schools and organizations in attendance.

NYPIRG members split into teams to discuss their platform with officials, focusing on a tuition freeze, a higher state investment in colleges, a Maintenance of Effort provision to cover inflationary tuition costs, TAP reform and passing of the NY DREAM Act to help students receive more financial aid, as well as other issues surrounding the increasing costs of higher education and the increase in student debt.

Since SUNY 2020 was put into action in 2011, tuition has increased by $1,500.

“Our job is to let students be aware,” said Wes Thomas, project coordinator of Buffalo State’s NYPIRG chapter, “and we want Buffalo State to be heard.”

While some of the groups were not able to directly speak to legislators, they were given the opportunity to speak to interns and other staff members, which Thomas claims was “equally as effective.”

“My team originally had 30 people, but we ended up with only three,” said Nigel Peters, a NYPIRG member. “Because our group was small, we were able to tell more personal stories and go over our points faster. We spoke to a representative and they were pretty receptive.”

NYPIRG Project Leader Sade Thomas had a similar experience.

“It was very enlightening. I couldn’t talk to any legislators but I talked to some representatives who portrayed that they cared and wanted to know more about the issues.”

Despite the positive reaction from the representatives, it will still take time before the issues surrounding higher education affordability can be resolved.

“This might take a little longer, some campaigns can take a few years,” Thomas said. “Marc Panepinto, State Senate member, is a big supporter of our platform, and since he’s been in office, has given some good insight and understands what we’re going through. He said that this year is ‘not the year for higher education’ but that 2017 will be the year. He didn’t say why but it’s probably because of smart politics and timing.”

To make these reforms happen, NYPIRG members highly stress student involvement in politics.

“Even if you’re not too much into politics, just bringing these points to politicians is something that’s needed so they see that there are numbers behind the small groups.” said Pedro Gonzalez, another NYPIRG member.

“We have to get out and register to vote so the issues students care about can be in the forefront of political discussions,” Thomas said. “If everyone at Buffalo State was registered to vote and voted during elections, we can change things.”`

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