Twenty South Dakota State University students who travelled to Pierre on Feb. 10 had the chance to talk to legislators about the issues that affect higher education.
The legislature was holding Students for Higher Education Days (SHED), and several colleges and universities from around the state sent delegations of students to discuss several pending bills. SDSU’s group included several Students’ Association senators, but also other students not SA affiliated.
The group met with Tad Perry, Board of Regents’ executive director, the night before meeting with the legislature, and discussed which bills being discussed the next day would be pertinent.
The next morning, they met with legislative committees dealing with the bills.
“(You basically) lobby legislators on how your school feels they should vote,” said SA President Dan Hansen, who was a member of the group.
The group largely discussed bills dealing with alcohol and tobacco tax increases, which would generate funding for higher education.
Hansen said the SDSU group voiced support for the increases, because it would beat a tuition hike.
“Our mindset is that a few more cents on a can of beer (would benefit) more than more tuition because it would tax anyone who drinks,” Hansen said.
He said they prefer that the burden was off only students.
The group also voiced support on legislation saying that additional funds for SDSU’s Division I move couldn’t be raised through student fee increases.
Although university policy essentially says the same thing, the group wanted the bill to pass at the state level and be applicable to all public universities.
In the afternoon, the group watched the legislature in action.
“A lot of what we did (was) just made sure they knew we were there,” said SA Senator Eric Erickson.
“We handed out a lot of cards … so they can call us if anything comes up.”
While the group didn’t see the immediate effects of their lobbying, Hansen said the legislators seemed interested in talking to the students.
“We talked about what they did in college … they get to know us, we get to know them,” Hansen said.
“A lot of times you didn’t even have to bring anything up.”
The group also met privately with Governor Mike Rounds.
The SDSU delegation had the largest university representation.
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