The Lobbying Committee of Student Senate here at NJIT is looking to bring about legislative change that will have a positive impact on the community. Representatives of NJIT met with representatives from neighboring in-state universities such as William Paterson University and Ramapo College, and held talks of coming together to form the New Jersey Student Association (NJSA), a coalition of such student lobbying committees who work to review and potentially protest or advocate for legislative bills regarding higher education.
Currently, the NJIT Lobbying Committee is reviewing five bills (four of these bills are state-based, one is of federal level). Two of the state bills, Bill A316 and Bill A493 are centralized around tuition increases for New Jersey public colleges.
Bill A316 is a bill circulating in the New Jersey Assembly that proposed “the prohibit[ion] of public in-state colleges from increasing resident undergraduate and graduate tuition and fees by more than 4% over the prior academic year.” Currently, the legislative piece is being sponsored by Assemblywoman Gabriela M. Mosquera of District 4 (Camden and Gloucester counties), Assemblywoman JoAnn Downey of District 11 (Monmouth County) Assemblywomen Nancy J. Pinkin of District 18 (Middlesex County), and Assemblyman Jay Webber of District 26 (Essex, Morris, and Passaic counties). This act, that caps tuition increases at 4%, will take immediate effect immediately, and perhaps retroactively for the 2017-2018 schoolyear.
Unlike the aforementioned bill, Bill A493 affects only resident undergraduate students and prohibits tuition to increase by “more than the rise in Consumer Price Index” or 2%, whichever is less. This bill is currently being sponsored by Assemblywoman Mila M. Jasey of District 27 (Essex and Morris counties), Assemblyman Vincent Prieto of District 32 (Bergen and Hudson counties), Assemblyman Gary S. Schaer of District 36 (Bergen and Passaic counties), and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle of District 37 (Bergen County). Following the date of enactment, the restrictions of this bill would take effect immediately and apply to upcoming academic year.
Our own NJIT President Joel Bloom expressed his support of the new student lobbying initiative. Bloom has previously promised not to allow tuition and fees to increase by more than 3% and has so far only allowed the academic costs to go up to 2%.
Along with reviewing higher education bills and potentially drafting their own, the Lobbying Committee will also be reviewing both the state and federal politicians’ work and voting record as it relates to similar bills. “This all means that our purpose in NJSA is not to protest or complain about these regulations but to adjust them to better address our reality as students,” says Naomi George, a fourth-year Law, Technology, and Culture (LTC) major who is a member of the lobbying initiative. “If bills are being passed to limit how many federal loans can be taken out for higher education in the future, we should see a cap placed on tuition.”
Alisa Scivetti, a second-year fellow LTC major, who is also a member of the Committee echoed the same sentiment: “We are working towards being heard by government officials to influence policy and policy makers, advocate for legislature that secures the rights of the student, working towards a better quality of education and a continuing goal of making higher education more affordable. We look forward to hearing from members within our NJIT community and creating a bridge between the college student and the politician.”
The Lobbying Committee is an adhoc committee that is by definition, formed for a specific objective and dissolved after this academic school year under outgoing Student Senate President Mark Neubauer. However, incoming Student Senate President Kellan Kadakia has signaled that he will keep the committee instated during his term too.
“Someone asked us at the NJSA meeting if our purpose was to inform fellow students of what we think [of] our government,” continued Naomi George. “And I said that it’s actually the other way around; our purpose is to inform our representatives of how we would be affected. This is all going to be done with the American spirit of negotiation.”