GPSA Mission and Vision

Graduate and Professional Student Association Advocacy Agenda 2019-2020

Executive Summary

The Advocacy Agenda introduces the themes and positions of Graduate and Professional Student Association for the 2019-2020 academic year. While the GPSA recognizes the following themes do not represent all issues that graduate and professional students experience, we understand that organizational change requires focused and specific effort - we focus on the following themes.

  • Accessibility, Affordability, and Student Success
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • International Student Experience
  • Mental Health
  • Sexual Violence Prevention
  • Food Insecurity

This paragraphs below represent the official statements of the GPSA of Arizona State University on these issues. The Advocacy Agenda is the exclusive representation of the position of the GPSA and comments by the GPSA Executive Officers or Assembly Members that conflict with the positions contained herein should be understood as the opinion of that individual and not of the greater Association. Section headers; footnotes, including those that reference specific legislation; and the executive summary are for readability and context only and should not be interpreted as official policy or an implicit endorsement of any bill, policy, or position not explicitly enumerated in body of the document.

1. Accessibility, Affordability, and Student Success

Public education is a great equalizer in American society. It breaks down barriers of income and class, provides gateways out of poverty, and raises the level of dialogue in our society. Graduate school access has become an economic imperative. 60% of the fastest growing economic sectors require training beyond the undergraduate level.[1] At the same time, graduate and professional students are being saddled with greater and greater debt inhibiting their productivity after earning their degree. No one should be denied access to a graduate level education because of their gender, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, ability-status, national origin, immigration status, or ability to pay.

While graduate or professional school is not for everyone, personal wealth should not be a barrier to entry and the costs of attendance must be economically sustainable. The GPSA supports efforts to stem, and wherever possible reverse, the growing burden of tuition and fees shouldered by students. This includes increases in direct state investment, programs and initiatives which generate fourth revenue streams, and state and federal funding for financial aid.[2]

The GPSA is encouraged by increases in state revenue for higher education in the 2019-2020 Arizona State Budget. With state revenue expected to rise in the coming year, the GPSA urges the Governor and the State Legislature to continue to value higher education by returning funding to the Arizona University System to pre-recession levels.

Graduate and professional students are, and will continue to be, an integral part of the Arizona business and tech environments. Investments in graduate and professional students pay large dividends in economic growth and job creation. The GPSA urges the Arizona State Legislature to fund dedicated financial aid for students attending graduate school in Arizona and invites the Arizona Board of Regents and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce to join us in calling for dedicated investment in graduate and professional students at the state level.

The GPSA is encouraged by the national attention being paid to student debt and the sustainability of educating tomorrow’s workforce. We echo calls for graduate and professional student access to PELL funds, graduate student loan refinancing options, and other legislation that will help graduate and professional students keep their heads above the rising tide of debt.[3],[4],[5]

The GPSA supports undocumented students. Immigrants make up a vital part of our community. Undocumented students should be granted in-state tuition and access to financial aid and the GPSA commits to continue to be engaged with the issues faced by our most vulnerable students. We express dismay at the rhetoric of some of our elected representatives who seem to scapegoat or diminish the contributions of our immigrant community. We call on Congress to pass the Dream Act.[6]

The GPSA is in support of the University furthering its efforts to advance access to University resources for students with disabilities. The University addresses online and environment accessibility issues through the Disability Resource Center and the ADA Compliance Officer (ASU, Business and Finance office). The GPSA would like to partner with the University to improve the timeliness of response and clarity of reporting mechanisms for students with disabilities. Especially those students who do not use the Disability Resource Center.

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2019). Employment Projections: 2018-2028 Summary. Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Labor. From https://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm.

[2] See AZ S.B. 1518 – 50/50 Funding Plan.

[3] See H.R. 1554 – Resident Education Deferred Interest (REDI) Act.

[4] See S. 768 / H.R.1707 - Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act.

[5] See H.R. 3334 - Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act of 2019.

[6] See S.R. 874 - Dream Act.

 

2. Diversity and Inclusion

The ASU Charter measures the University and its success not by whom we exclude but by whom we include. To create innovative and useful research as well as produce graduates that address not only today’s challenges but anticipate the challenges of the future, programs or policies which promote homogeneity should be challenged at all costs. ASU not only needs to be representative of the state in respect to diversity, but support services and relevant services need to be in place to support students as our community needs continue to shift. It’s not enough to say diversity or inclusion is the job of every department, the University needs to work to provide relevant services, spaces, and opportunities for community development as diverse as its growing student body. The GPSA will continue to advocate for the needs of all graduate students, providing a space for targeted advocacy to meet students’ needs. Below are focused policy issues that we believe are relevant to the topics of diversity and inclusion for graduate students this academic year.

The GPSA opposes all forms of discrimination and will continue to work in concert with the University to sustain an inclusive environment for graduate and professional students. GPSA will work with the University and our legislative partners to monitor potential discrimination issues for graduate and professional students related to the Arizona Supreme Court decision in Brush & Nib v. City of Phoenix.

Inclusion is often most quickly achieved through objective and informed oversight and reporting. The GPSA is in support of the advancement of legislation that encourages college and university communities to audit their institutional practices to be inclusive.[7]

The GPSA is opposed to legislative measures that limit protections under Title IX, i.e. narrowing definitions of sex to only meet the biological definition. The GPSA will continue to monitor the U.S. Department of Education’s recommendations related to Title IX and will remain in close contact with University leadership in the event those protections are in danger.

[7] See S. 800 / H.R. 1766 - College Transparency Act.

 

3. International Student Experience

International students bring not only diversity but a pool of brilliant and innovative minds that contribute to the United States. According to NAFSA, international students have contributed $39 billion to our economy in 2017 alone.[8] In addition, international students boost research capital and scientific advancement in various fields and are critical in preparing domestic students for future careers. As of Fall 2018, more than 4,000 international students call ASU home and they are valued members of the greater ASU community.[9] As such, the GPSA supports equity in policy and opportunity for international students.

International students make a significant sacrifice both financially and emotionally to come to the United States for the purpose of obtaining an advanced degree. Fields which require an advanced degree are major contributors to the American and Arizonan economies. As such, the GPSA supports solutions which support the future of international students who have earned graduate and/or professional degrees graduate and/or professional degrees at Arizona State University.

International students typically pay much greater tuition and fees than that of domestic students, often without access to financial aid or necessary support systems. The GPSA supports initiatives which provide international students with total cost of attendance relief, increased access to campus resources, and out of classroom support.

[8] NAFSA. (2019, October 20). International Student Economic Value Tool. From National Association for Foreign Student Affairs: https://www.nafsa.org/policy-and-advocacy/policy-resources/nafsa-internationalstudent-economic-value-tool.

[9] Arizona State University. (2019, October 20). ASU.edu. From Enrollment Trends Metropolitan Campuses: https://www.asu.edu/facts/#/facts/enrollment/metro-campus.

 

4. Mental Health

The GPSA continues to be concerned with the health, both physical and mental, of our student body. The GPSA commits to work with student support resources to ensure accurate and timely communication of health resources so that our students understand what is available. We will work with students and ASU Administration to understand where there are gaps and find ways to address them.

Graduate and professional students are six times more likely than the general population to suffer from mental health problems, with 39-41% suffering from anxiety and/or depression.[10] The GPSA supports legislation and university initiatives to improve access to mental health support services and general awareness of this predominant issue. We plan to advise the university on the delivery of healthcare services to students.[11]

We support the provision of access and policies for increased mental healthcare services. The GPSA is committed to the pursuit of more wellness resources for our students. We seek to advocate for mental health initiatives and research from the Graduate College and provide online resources to identify solutions for student needs.

Given the mental health issues seen in graduate and professional students, the GPSA believes that researcher advisers should not only focus on the field of expertise and research output of their graduate and professional students but play an active role in their health and success. We support legislation and ASU policies that conducts oversight on advisers and incentivizes them for good training and mentorship practices.[12]

[10] Evans, T. M., Bira, L., Gastelum, J. B., Weiss, L. T., & Vanderford, N. L. (2018). Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education. Nature Biotechnology, 282-284.

[11] See S. 1204 - Higher Education Mental Health Act of 2019.

[12] See S. 800 / H.R. 1766 - College Transparency Act and the Framework for Accountability in Academic Research and Mentoring (FAARM).

 

5. Sexual Violence Protection

Colleges and universities should be safe havens for students to take intellectual risks without fearing their physical safety. While we aspire to this, the reality is that 1 in 5 women will experience some form of sexual violence by their fourth year of college. In their lifetimes, 19% of women and 2% of men will experience rape, and that 44% of women and 23% men will experience some other form of sexual violence.[13] Sexual violence exists on college and university campuses, the GPSA holds the position that ASU and the ASU community should continue active work to address climate concerns that perpetuate sexual violence.

Graduate and professional students are particularly vulnerable to economic catastrophe resulting from sexual and gender-based violence, especially if that violence comes from programs or advisers. Ensuring that graduate and professional students can work, learn, and research in safety helps promote completion; the GPSA supports legislation that allows survivors time to receive services, promotes access to unemployment insurance, protects them from discrimination for having experienced violence or for requesting protections, and invests in national campaign to encourage a culture of prevention and support.[14]

The Title IX process for reporting sexual violence can be overly legal and complex. As such, providing resources for survivors would be hugely impactful for their well being and health. The GPSA supports solutions which accomplishes this such as requiring institutions of higher education to have an independent advocate for campus sexual assault prevention and response.[15]

The GPSA supports the University furthering its efforts to advance access to available resources for education on preventing sexual violence. The University has resources on sexual violence prevention; the GPSA hopes these are further developed.[16] The GPSA would like to work with the University and student organizations to improve the resources offered for, and to build awareness around, sexual violence prevention.

[13] National Center for Victims of Crime. (2019, November 2). About Sexual Assault. From National Center for Victims of Crime: https://victimsofcrime.org/our-programs/past-programs/dna-resourcecenter/untested-sexual-assault-kits/about-sexual-assault

[14] See H.R. 1468 - The SAFE Act of 2019.

[15] See S.B. 1483 - Survivor Outreach and Support Campus Act.

[16] Arizona State University. (2019, 11 2). Sexual Violence Awareness and Response. From ASU.edu: https://sexualviolenceprevention.asu.edu

 

6. Food Insecurity

Food is a basic human necessity. Stress related to access to food inhibits productivity, distracts from learning, and discourages completion. In a recent poll of graduate and professional student leaders at ASU nearly 3 in 10 had experienced student food insecurity within the last six months.[17] While there is extensive national data on graduate and professional student hunger and some local study of undergraduate hunger at ASU, almost no statistically relevant data exists on graduate or professional student food insecurity at ASU – despite growing anecdotal evidence suggesting that the issue is wide-spread. The GPSA seeks to better understand and then address, through partnerships, food insecurity among the graduate and professional populations of ASU.

Of those student leaders who reported having experienced food insecurity in the last six months, 6 in 10 had not used institutional resources to augment their access to food;[18] this seems to point to an informational problem. The GPSA will seek to increase student awareness of resources available at both a university level and by specific colleges.

While social safety nets exist outside the university system, graduate and professional students are often precluded from accessing them because of the way financial aid is reported and taxed. This can cause students to have to choose between eating and continuing in their programs. The GPSA supports efforts being taken at the federal level to address this and allow those students in need to access social safety nets and encourages the state legislature to work toward the same end.[19],[20],[21]

Often the most successful programs that address student needs are coordinated efforts; folding legislative actions in with university policy and student leadership. Last year the University of Arizona student leaders successfully advocated for ability to use Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits at the on-campus food venues and NAU is working to provide food to students via catering rescue. The GPSA supports solutions that will give our students greater access to nutritional resources where they are.

The first step to address any issue is understanding. Because there is a dearth of reliable, representative data for graduate and professional students at ASU, the GPSA will seek to increase its understanding of this issue, and the ways in which it can be addressed, through on and off-campus partnerships, executive committee work, and relevant data collection.

[17] Internal survey conducted September 2019.

[18] Internal survey conducted September 2019.

[19] See H.R.4297 - Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2019.

[20] See S.2110/H.R.3718 - Closing the College Hunger Gap Act of 2019.

[21] See H.R.4297 - Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2019.