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Chancellor White Joins SUNY Head in Visits with Federal Lawmakers

Elizabeth Chapin


​CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White and SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher met with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (left) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer​​ (right) February 14​​​


California State University (CSU) Chancellor Timothy P. White joined State University of New York (SUNY) Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in Washington, D.C. February 14 to share the critical role of public higher education to the nation's success, and advocate for enhanced federal student aid and the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The two chancellors met with lawmakers including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (NY)—briefing them on the role CSU and SUNY play in providing an affordable, quality education, especially to low-income and underserved students.

CSU and SUNY are the nation's largest public higher education systems and leading engines of social mobility. Together they serve more than one million students and grant roughly 200,000 degrees per year.

A significant percentage of these students rely on need-based Pell Grants, the foundation of federal student aid, which provide access to millions of students who might otherwise not be able to attend college. The Pell program is also critical to the success of Graduation Initiative 2025, the CSU's ambitious system effort to improve graduation rates and close achievement gaps. In 2015-16, 221,500—about 47 percent—of CSU students relied on Pell Grants, with an average annual grant of $4,300.

Chancellors White and  Zimpher told lawmakers that the Pell program can be made more flexible and helpful by restoring the year-round, or "summer" Pell program—a top priority for both systems for the upcoming fiscal year.

In an academic year, many students exhaust their annual Pell eligibility after just two semesters, making it difficult for them to afford summer courses. A year-round program would allow them to receive a third semester of Pell. This additional support is critical as research shows that academic momentum and credit accumulation help students persist and complete.

A year-round program existed from 2009-2011 but was eliminated during the economic recession. In that short time, more than 12,000 CSU students benefitted per year.

Both chancellors also described how concerns related to the fate of the DACA program are affecting students and their families and asked for assistance in maintaining the program and providing certainty for students.

Every year, the CSU's Office of Federal Relations lays out federal priorities for the 23-campus system. In addition to a robust Pell Grant program, priorities on this year's agenda include support for other federal financial aid programs such as the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant and Work-Study. The CSU has also prioritized support for pipeline programs that prepare students for college, policies that assist California DREAM Act students, and education and research grants from government agencies.

On April 5th, Chancellor White, CSU trustees, campus presidents and students will promote these system priorities in Washington during the CSU's annual Hill Day.

In addition to discussing key federal funding priorities, the CSU teams will use this advocacy trip to educate lawmakers about the CSU's impact on California's and America's prosperity. The public's investment in the CSU system generates huge returns by providing businesses and industries with highly-qualified, well-prepared college graduates.

The Office of Federal Relations and CSU leaders will continue to work with campuses, lawmakers and federal agencies in the year ahead to advance the university's priorities.

The full 2017 federal agenda is available here.