CSG president issues letter to senators, U.S. reps in support of Higher Education Act

Thursday, November 14, 2019 - 7:42pm

Central Student Government president Ben Gerstein recently wrote a letter to members of Michigan’s congressional delegation in support of the Higher Education Act.

Central Student Government president Ben Gerstein recently wrote a letter to members of Michigan’s congressional delegation in support of the Higher Education Act. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

Public Policy junior Ben Gerstein, Central Student Government president, wrote a letter to members of Michigan’s congressional delegation in support of the Higher Education Act, which seeks to make college tuition more affordable for students. In the letter, Gerstein stated that his constituents — University of Michigan students — are almost all in agreement regarding college affordability.

“While representing the various viewpoints of my constituents is a tempestuous endeavor, there is one issue where there is nearly unanimous consensus; the paramount saliency of college affordability,” Gerstein wrote in his letter.

Advocating for the students on both the state and federal levels was one of the priorities that Gerstein laid out at the beginning of his term. 

In his letter, Gerstein wrote in support of the provisions of the bill that seek to create tuition-free community college, increase Pell Grants and allow undocumented students access to federal aid. In his conclusion, Gerstein wrote that on behalf of the students of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, he looks forward to their support on the Higher Education Act and the College Affordability Act.

Some students are in favor of Gerstein’s lobbying of the federal representatives. Public Policy junior David Carpenter was supportive of Gerstein’s letter and applauded CSG for addressing the issue.

“Regardless of where you come from, regardless or not if you’re the individual that’s putting up the cost and in fellows education, it really does affect every single student that goes to the University of Michigan, and all the students that want to maybe want to come to the University of Michigan but are restricted by costs or by having to work and or other things,” Carpenter said.

Other students, like Public Policy senior Nicholas Tomaino, urged CSG to ensure they were surveying all groups on campus to get an accurate read of the political dynamics on campus. 

“The University of Michigan is a premier research university in the state of Michigan, and obviously it’s important to have some sort of relationship with our elected representatives,” Tomaino said. “It’s a respectable thing to be doing. It’s incumbent on the CSG president to seek out the perspectives of various communities across campus whenever he/she aspires to speak on behalf of the entire student body.”

Tomaino said Gerstein’s statement should have specified whether students on campus unanimously agreed that the Higher Education Act was the best solution to solve the college affordability crisis.

“While I’m sure that there is near-unanimous consensus that college affordability is an important issue for folks on campus, I’m largely skeptical that there is near-unanimous consensus on the Higher Education Act being the most effective method for solving it,” Tomaino said.

Gerstein said in his conversations with student stakeholders at the University, the dialogue was largely centered on improving campus affordability. He said there wasn’t a specific survey on how the entire student population felt. 

“I would say that among the 40,000 students we have on campus, a good majority, a large amount of students would say at least the campus affordability is an issue that exists here at the University of Michigan and in higher education across the country,” Gerstein. “And so, I didn’t have specific polling numbers to show that the entire student population thinks campus affordability is a large or larger issue, but just in terms of campus advocacy, and what the dialogue has been on campus around campus affordability the last couple of years and institutional barriers to access for low socioeconomic status students.” 

Communications director of the University's chapter of College Democrats Camille Mancuso, Public Policy junior, commended CSG’s support of the Higher Education Act.

“College inaccessibility and unaffordability is a crisis faced by students all across the country, and that crisis is amplified at the University of Michigan. College Democrats is excited to see a commitment to solving this crisis in our Central Student Government,” Mancuso wrote. “The Higher Education Act is a step toward increasing college access for all students--specifically for low-income and undocumented students. It is both important and necessary that our Central Student Government President reflect the interests of students by advocating for the Higher Education Act.”

The Daily reached out to the College Republicans for comment several times but received no response.