Students to lobby by phone

By Vickie Snow

NIU students can phone in Valentine’s Day wishes to the nation’s capitol today for more financial aid.

Students across the nation are urged to call Congress to lobby for higher education support during the United States Student Association’s “Be a Sweetheart Phone-In Day.”

USSA declared the event in reaction to President George Bush’s proposed fiscal year 1991 budget for student aid.

“Students will not be wooed by the empty promises of the education president and must turn to Congress for real support of higher education,” said USSA President Julianne Marley.

USSA Legislative Director Janet Lieberman said, “Students will express Valentine’s Day wishes and ask that education be made Congress’ number one funding priority.”

By calling (202) 224-3121, students will be directed to House Speaker Thomas Foley, Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell and members of the House and Senate budget committees, Lieberman said.

NIU Financial Aid Director Jerry Augsburger agreed that turning to Congress for support is a must.

“Congress doesn’t always follow proposals,” he said. After proposals reach Congress, “they usually come out in much better shape.

“These kinds of proposals are relatively routine and not much different from the Reagan years,” Augsburger said. “Ever since Republicans have taken over the White House, student budget proposals have generally been a downer.”

He estimated about 8,000 NIU students receive aid from federally funded programs such as the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan and Stafford Loan.

“Each year, the proposal was for no new federal capital for the Perkins Loan,” Augsburger said.

Bush’s proposal places a $2,300 freeze on the Pell Grant for each student, “the most important federal aid for low income students,” Marley said.

Bush also seeks to eliminate funding for Perkins loans, USSA Vice President Julius Davis said.

By calling, students can make an “impact on congressmen to show they are interested in the continuation of aid programs,” Augsburger said.

Augsburger said he “hopes that Congress, in its wisdom, will restore and add funds to the programs to be sufficient for students’ needs.”

NIU Student Association President Huda Scheidelman wants students to participate, calling the event “awareness day for funding for higher education.” NIU is a campus member of the USSA and charges a $1 refundable student fee each semester, she said.

The committees are “the first people in Congress who deal with the budget and make key decisions,” Lieberman said.

“Illinois students are lucky because they have representation on the budget committees” such as House members Marty Russo and Richard Durbin from Illinois and Sen. Paul Simon, Lieberman said.