ASUNM Governmental Affairs is offering training for anyone wanting to be a team advocate for UNM Day, a day when the New Mexico State Legislature focuses on UNM-specific issues. These advocates travel to Santa Fe every year to meet legislators and lobby for issues that benefit UNM students.
“With the Capitol in Santa Fe, it creates distance between the legislature and students,” ASUNM Governmental Affairs Executive Assistant Royce Dellar said. “UNM Day allows legislators to put a name to a face.”
Executive Director Nathan Cowan and his assistants Dellar and Jack Hodge started with a video highlighting “What to Expect” as an advocate.
It presented UNM Day as an opportunity for UNM organizations to head to the state Capitol to talk about what is most important to them. The 20-minute training session outlines what is means to be an advocate, and how to best interact with legislators and other professionals in Santa Fe.
“UNM Day is our opportunity to go in full force at the Capitol and let our legislators know what we want and need to thrive as a student body at UNM,” Cowan said.
The next training session will be held on Jan. 25 at 12 p.m. on the third floor of the SUB in Acoma A&B. Snacks and refreshments will be provided.
“Meeting students helps legislators understand what all of this money goes to. It helps them connect the students’ faces to their hopes and dreams and shows how important the Lottery Scholarship is to accomplishing those hopes and dreams,” Hodge said.
The group creates messaging and strategy briefs that are handed out before UNM Day. All students will work in groups of five to six and discuss their delegated issue with legislators throughout the day.
“We normally go up with 20 or 30 students, and I think that is an appalling number for how big the University is,” Cowan said. “Lottery Scholarships are in grave danger, and 45 percent of Lottery recipients come to UNM.”
The Lottery Scholarship is one of the most important issues they are bringing to the Capitol on Jan. 30. There are initiatives being introduced by colleges all over the state to help save Lottery Scholarship funds.
The Liquor Excise Tax, L.E.T, allows for portions of alcohol sales tax to be deferred to the Lottery Scholarship, with the other half going to DWI prevention programs, but is set to expire this year.
UNM advocates traveling to Santa Fe may be briefed on trying to reinstate this program so that half of the taxes from liquor sales remain with scholarship funds. Students who receive 90 percent coverage from the Lottery will only be covered up be 60 percent if this benefit is lost.
“There is no appetite in Santa Fe for educational funding,” Hodge said.
Another bill that will be briefed to advocates is the gap year, which would allow for an 18 month break after a student’s high school graduation. The current policy states that graduating seniors must begin their first semester of college the fall after graduating high school in order to qualify for the Lottery Scholarship.
Advocates will also show support for a backlogging bill which allows the Lottery Scholarship to be doled out on a scale: Freshman will receive 60 percent of their tuition covered, sophomores 70 percent, juniors 80 percent and seniors 90 percent.
The exact coverage percentages are not set in stone for the bill, and the figures given are an example of what a backlogging bill could look like.
“I don’t think the average student understands how much influence they have on the legislative process pertaining to the Lottery Scholarship,” Cowan said.
ASUNM is anticipating any number of cuts this legislative session to the scholarship fund and are preparing to defend the scholarship and ask for as little cuts as possible.
“UNM does not think the cuts will be detrimental,” Cowan said, but they are preparing for the worst case scenario.
Nikole McKibben is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nmckibben92.