BOULDER, Colo. –

Four University of Colorado student leaders joined their Big 12 counterparts in Washington, D.C., last week to rally support for higher-education issues and meet with Colorado’s congressional delegation.

The quartet of CU Student Union officials — Dustin Farivar and Ryan Biehle, tri-executives; Anthony De La Rosa, director or legislative affairs; and Amie Ha, Representative Council speaker — joined students from universities in Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It was great to work with the other schools,” Farivar said upon his return Sunday. “No matter where you are as a student, you know the burden and cost of trying to gain a comprehensive education in a reasonable amount of time with a low amount of debt.

“So we see the value in working collaboratively to achieve that dream.”

In meetings with seven of the nine members of Colorado’s delegation — including Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Reps. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, and Betsy Markey, D-Fort Collins — the students discussed a number of higher-education measures that are on the table in the House and Senate.

The Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, for instance, was introduced in late February as Senate Bill 473 and would provide the necessary funding and operations to boost the annual number of students who study abroad from 230,000 to 1 million.

“We’re the next generation of leaders in this country,” Farivar said. “We need to be culturally aware, globally competitive and have a comprehensive perspective about how our actions both at home and abroad are impacting the world.”

According to De La Rosa, only 1.36 percent of college students study abroad each year and, of that, only 1.22 percent of those students are from Colorado.

The Paul Simon Act seeks to boost those numbers, in addition to diversifying the locations where students choose to study, and offer aid to under-represented students who would like to participate.

De La Rosa described another bill that was discussed at the Big 12 Conference in Washington: the Developmental Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which was introduced March 26 as Senate Bill 729.

If passed, the DREAM Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for qualifying undocumented students who have earned high-school diplomas or GEDs.

“This is not just amnesty for the sake of amnesty,” De La Rosa said. “A lot of these students are graduating at the top of their classes, but can’t afford to attend college because of having to pay out-of-state-tuition.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to invest in them K through 12, and then not let them invest back in the state or country by pursuing higher education.”

With its many stipulations for qualification — including five years of prior residency in the U.S. and the absence of a criminal record — the DREAM Act would offer students a “conditional legal status” for six years, and the opportunity for permanent citizenship upon the completion of military service or a degree. Additionally, states could choose to award eligible students with in-state tuition fees.

those darned kids and their crazy ideals

jjbhs

4/6/2009 2:02:05 AM