The New Year has been busy for higher education advocates right out of the gate with the transition of a new White House administration. For Government & Community Relations, 2017 will be a Year of Engagement. Our staff and volunteers must be even more engaged this year with elected officials and policy makers at all levels of government.
At the federal level, the confirmation of new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the team that she assembles to formulate higher education policy will be significant. Congress, in consultation with the Department of Education, will be working on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA contains significant provisions impacting students, particularly in regard to federal financial aid. Pell Grant funding is a component of the HEA that is very important for UCLA. Your advocacy will be vital in this area.
Also with regard to immigration policy, the University of California (UC) and our campus has taken a strong position in support of our DACA students and on the immigration impacts that affect UCLA and the UC as a whole with regard to academic collaborations, international travel and domestic and international students. Both Chancellor Gene Block and UC President Janet Napolitano have been vocal during the last few weeks in regards to the new immigration executive order and looming impacts on our DACA students here and across the country. We continue to espouse a positive message of diversity, inclusion and progress. We want to allay fears in our immigrant student community who are vital to what public higher education, UCLA and the UC stand for.
At the state level, the beginning of the year also means it is time for advocates to turn their attention to the state budget. Governor Brown recently released his 2017-2018 budget proposal. Please stay tuned to how we can best work together for a successful result in this year’s budget for higher education. While we are not back to the 2007-08 funding level, the state is slowly re-investing in UC. Additionally, UCLA is expecting a $2.2 million boost for innovation and entrepreneurship efforts! We need your advocacy in Sacramento to continue to press for funding for enrollment growth, research support and graduate student education.
In the spring, local elections will be held. The Los Angeles Mayoral and City Council elections, along with local elections in Los Angeles County will offer a wide range of candidates for public office. Be engaged in your community in these important elections that impact our communities and neighborhoods. Register and vote in March.
On the home front, I’m proud that UCLA is moving forward with a $16.5 million package of major new programs and services for veterans. We look to continue and better our partnership with the West Los Angeles VA in the coming months and years, and this pact goes a long way to starting that — along with a special event at the VA Gardens we were happy to be a part of.
Finally, I would like to introduce a new member of our team, Francisco Carrillo, who started this week in the Government and Community Relations office as our new Executive Director of Federal Relations. Prior to accepting the position, Carrillo was the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental and External Affairs at the U.S. Department of Energy. He will make a great addition to our team. Be on the lookout for a profile next month that will outline his plans for Federal Relations and give a little more insight into who he is!
The November election was divisive and polarizing to our nation. Many people were left apathetic, cynical and depressed with the outcome. We cannot afford to do that. We are living in a time of increased activism, and our issues are too vital for us to withdraw. This is a time for advocacy and activism. We hope you are as energized and committed as we are. We know that higher education makes a difference. It is critical for economic recovery and growth. It is critical for our state and nation. Raise Your Voice!
Keith S. Parker