Community College Group Doubles Down on Lobbying … Without a Budget

In the recent California legislative session, the Student Senate for California Community Colleges successfully lobbied for several initiatives of interest to students. And the group did it all on a volunteer basis. Here's why.

The Student Senate for California Community Colleges (SSCCC) has a lot of things going for it—passionate volunteers, an important mission, and a handful of big legislative victories earned through lots of shoe-leather advocacy work.

One thing it doesn’t have? A budget.

SSCCC has struggled to win the approval of the state’s community colleges for a $2-per-semester student fee, a dollar of which, under a state law passed three years ago, would be used to fund the group’s lobbying initiatives. According to a San Jose Mercury News report, just one of the state’s 113 community colleges has approved the fee, which would help pay for the association’s legislative staff and cover travel costs.

In a way, it’s a problem that highlights why the organization needs lobbyists in the first place.

But despite that lack of operating budget, the group has a number of volunteers who are speaking up on initiatives of interest to the state’s 2.3 million community college students.

“The cost burden was on ourselves personally, but it was work we wanted to do, and work we wanted to see through,” Gerson Liahut-Sanchez, an East Los Angeles College student and the group’s vice president of legislative affairs, told the newspaper.

During the current session alone, the SSCCC has successfully lobbied for five pieces of legislation on issues as diverse as financial transparency, support for homeless students, and access to mental health care.

These issues inspire passion in SSCCC members. Courtney Cooper, the group’s president, has made the long trip to Sacramento from Silicon Valley as many as a dozen times per month at her own expense. She says the effort is worth it, considering the people the legislation could help.

“When I think about how exhausted I am, when I think about tests I could have had an A instead of a B on, that’s why I do the work,” she told the Mercury News.

(via the Student Senate for California Community Colleges Facebook page)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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