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By KRISTIN HODGES kdh027@latech



Tech’s Student Government Association took part in the Louisiana Board of Regents and the Louisiana Council of Student Body Presidents’ trip to Washington, D.C., Feb. 5 through 9.

Caleb Smith, SGA president and a senior marketing major, said the trip was held to advocate lowering interest rates on student loans, raising the value of Pell grants and limiting the rising costs of textbooks.

“I feel that our visit sends a clear, strong message that students of higher education are united to serve the interests of students in Louisiana,” Smith said.

Delegates from Tech were Smith and Matt LaCaze, SGA vice president and a senior political science major.

Smith said the fact that the representatives from 15 public colleges and universities in Louisiana came as a group also sent a strong message to the senators and representatives.

“For us to represent these ideas and issues, especially as a group, will keep these issues in the forefront of the minds and agendas of our representatives,” Smith said.

The Board of Regents representatives and the student body presidents met with Sen. Mary Landrieu and Sen. David Vitter along with seven representatives including Rep. Rodney Alexander.

“We were able to gain a clear understanding of other issues that are delegates are facing, and through our meetings with the educational administrators, gained a better understanding of how higher education works on a state and national level,” Smith said.

The student body presidents and representatives from the Board of Regents had a chance to tour the White House, the Capitol and watch a Senate hearing.

Smith also said he learned more about how higher education works outside of the local level from a presentation by Sally Clausen, president of the University of Louisiana System. He said the group spoke with Joseph Savoie, the commissioner of the Louisiana Board of Regents.

“We spent a lot of time talking with him, both helping him understand the needs of college students and learning from him what is going on in the state regarding education and education policy,” Smith said.

Smith said he learned some more practical lessons from other student government presidents on the trip.

“We had discussions on everything ranging from constitutions to activities, parties, student fees to construction,” Smith said. “One of the most valuable components was brainstorming with other student leaders.”

LaCaze said the student government leaders talked about the differences and similarities between the University of Louisiana system and the Louisiana State University system.

“We talked about how the systems work together and have common goals,” LaCaze said.

LaCaze said many schools are participating in the same projects, including the college readership program, as Tech. He said they also discussed ways to increase voter turnout in student government elections.

LaCaze said he hopes the members of Congress pay attention to and vote for legislation that addresses the issues discussed during the trip, which will help bring in more students to universities in Louisiana.

“The idea is better financial aid for Louisiana,” LaCaze said. “To get more students in Louisiana schools, we need to raise financial aid.”

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