Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget has proposed to eliminate the Bundy Direct Aid Program, which provides unrestricted support to St. Joseph’s College and other independent colleges and universities, depending on how many students they graduate.
Funds from Bundy are traditionally used to provide scholarship support to deserving and qualified students at SJC Brooklyn and SJC Long Island. Realizing the importance of this, a contingent of SJC students from both campuses went to Albany this month to speak with state legislators, as part of the Commission of Independent Colleges and Universities annual Lobby Day.
“During my time at SJC, I attended the Democratic National Convention, spoke to local politicians in their districts and interned for Congressman Hakeem Jeffries,” said Juanita Arias, a biology and sociology major at SJC Brooklyn. “As a graduating senior, I welcomed the chance to go to Albany for Lobby Day and learn about the legislative process.”
To prepare for the Lobby Day trip, Arias, along with students Conor Johnson and Nicholas Bates from SJC Long Island, learned about the state’s budget process and how citizens can work to advance their interests with their legislators in the state Assembly and state Senate, as well as discover which issues are important to legislators in different regions.
“As a student of politics, it’s always a thrill to see how things get done,” said Johnson, a senior and political science major at SJC Long Island. “In preparing for this trip, during our visits, and the subsequent follow-up, I learned a great deal about how the state budget works and how to advocate effectively for my interests.”
While in Albany, the advocacy team spoke to staffers from the offices of state Sen. Martin Golden and Assemblywoman Latrice Walker of Brooklyn, and Assembly members Steve Engelbright and Kimberly Jean-Pierre of Long Island to share their stories of how Bundy Aid and other state aid from made it possible for them to work toward their dreams at SJC. At the end of each meeting, the students urged the legislators and their staffs to sign on to letters asking for the reinstatement of funding for the Bundy Aid Program.
“New York state financial aid makes it possible for thousands of students to go to SJC,” said Bates, a senior and political science major at SJC Long Island. “This trip gave me the opportunity to fight for myself and my fellow students. No one is going to do it for us.”