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June 1, 2021 LA GRANDE, Ore. – About 14 state lawmakers, plus Governor Kate Brown, spoke with Eastern Oregon University students last week about issues that impact higher education in Oregon.
EOU lobbied alongside other technical and regional institutions for consistent funding, expanded student support, and much-needed capital construction projects. Miked Tarkong, a senior studying political science at EOU, helped organize student participation.
Originally from the Republic of Palau, Tarkong serves as the Director for Political Affairs in EOU’s student government. Lobby Days usually take place at the capitol building in Salem, but all activities happened virtually this year in response to the pandemic. Groups of students met with legislators via Zoom, and shared their personal stories.
“One of my favorite parts of this experience is just engaging and having great conversations with the legislators,” Tarkong said. “One example was talking with Representative Levy. She was very kind and open to hearing our testimonies, and made me and my team feel like we are being heard and that she understands the impacts of financial burden while being a full-time student.”
Students lobbied for sustained and increased investment from the state in the form of $900 million for the Public University Support Fund, $200 million for OOG and Sports Lottery 1%. They also advocated for bills that benefit students from the Pacific Islands, ease the transfer process, and highlight academic outcomes.
“Most of the students in my group were lobbying for the first time,” Tarkong said. “At first they felt very nervous and intimidated, but as time went by I noticed how confident they got and how motivated they were knowing the significance of what we are asking for.”
He said Lobby Days give students an opportunity to interact directly with legislators and describe how higher education funding affects their college experiences. Participants also walk away with a greater understanding of the legislative process and how it affects their lives, Tarkong said, leading to increased involvement in the democratic process.
“State support is critical to keep tuition in check, maintain programs and continue student support services at all of Oregon’s public universities,” he said. “The main thing I want the legislators to take away are the EOU students’ personal stories on how these funds and bills have impacted our lives as we pursue our higher education. There were stories from student-athletes, first-generation college students, and several more which were all very inspiring.”
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