If you look up the word advocacy in an old fashioned dictionary, you find this definition: "plead in favor of; defend in argument; support." To push this nerdy quest a little further, the word advocacy comes from the medieval Latin term "advocare" which means "summon, call to one's aid."
So to advocate means you are engaged in the activity of representing students who can't or don't know how to advocate for themselves. And that, friends, is important, non-partisan work.
Despite what you may have heard, advocating is also easy. If you know how to write an email or make a phone call, you know how to advocate. The goal? To offer examples of how proposed or existing legislation may affect your students. Tell stories. Give examples. Show them how their decisions will directly affect your students.
NASFAA has a terrific, public website that walks you through ways to advocate for students from your campus (see links under "Advocacy Resources".) For example, here is a tip on writing letters from the Fight for Financial Aid site. "Letters, emails and calls should be brief, concise and neat.
State your message clearly at the start ('I'm contacting you because I want you to support continued funding for federal student aid.') Then most importantly, give the details of your personal story ('I'm attending college today because of the federal student aid I receive.') Keep it short and dont forget to provide your contact information."
Think about visiting your legislative representative in person at their home office. Get to know the people who work there and make sure they know you. You may find that the next time they have a question about how something may work in an actual financial aid office you might be the first person they call!
- NASFAA Legislative Tracker
- NASFAA State Advocacy Toolkit
- NASFAA Take Action
- NASFAA Fight for Financial Aid