This past spring, Nathan Walker, a student at Teachers College, lobbied for a bill in Washington D.C. that would reform the current government-funded financial aid programs.
As the co-founder and executive director of the National Tuition Endowment Student Movement, Walker oversaw and worked on the drafting of the bill for months prior to his trip to the Congress.
The bill would create a National Tuition Endowment that would oversee the federal financial aid program, as well as provide more aid to low and middle-income undergraduate and graduate students. The bill proposes that the funding come from the $30 billion of "waste" income and savings recovered from inefficient use of federal funding. The aid would come mainly in the form of grants instead of loans over the next 10 years.
"There is a tuition crisis in America," Walker said. "The increase in tuition in recent years have been greater than increase in median income, causing financial strains."
His involvement with the issue began in the University Senate last year, where he was the co-chair of the Student Affairs Committee. He protested against the proposed increase in tuition at Columbia when he realized the national scale of the problem.
With former student senator Matan Ariel, GS '06, Walker founded the NTESM then worked on expanding the organization nationally. It now includes various groups and representatives from institutions of higher education, including community, two-year, and four-year liberal arts colleges and universities. The bill is endorsed by over 900 community colleges and two million graduate students.
"I believe this the first time in American higher education history that different types of colleges are working together on a bill," Walker said.
Members of the organization began pressuring politicians with e-mails and phone calls, and their wish was granted when the U.S. Senate invited Walker and other leaders to present their research and the bill. They showed their findings and discussed the proposition with more than 40 Senate offices.
"I worked with cross-party groups, and it was truly inspiring to find political alliance between the two parties," Walker said. "Also they were just very responsive and informative."
Walker hopes that by the next congressional session the bill will be finalized. Even though he is unsure of the bill's passage, he remains hopeful. Walker is also unsure of when the bill will come to vote.
"It's just hard to tell right now, but if everything goes well I think this will help very many students around the country."