WRI Student Leaders Go to Albany

Student Leaders Go to Albany
to Make Education Count

On February 27, 2013, Welfare Rights Initiative students brought their determination and personal stories to Albany to remind state policy makers that nothing should deter a person from seeking a quality education.

The focus of the trip was to draw attention to Senate Bill 1419, sponsored by Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn). This proposed legislation would allow baccalaureate and advanced degree programs to count towards work requirements for students receiving public assistance. The Assembly passed A.3473, the companion bill in early February 2013

Thirty WRI and CUNY Law students met with 20 of their New York State (NYS) legislative leaders. After an early morning bus trip from NYC, students arrived to have breakfast and speak to a gathering of over 200 groups representing NYS Empire State Economic Security Campaign (ES2). The day was full of energy and hope for NYS families receiving welfare: Make Education Count!

Each year, Welfare Rights Initiative assists hundreds of undergraduate students on public assistance who are working toward a better future. Reports show workfare programs don’t support long-term economic mobility because these assignments rarely lead to livable wage jobs.

To underscore this point, WRI called on Hunter College student and advocate Christina Chaise, to speak on behalf of young adults like her who face severe obstacles that compromise attempts to pursue higher education as the best way out of poverty. Christina shared her experiences with state legislators and the media:

“As a resident of public housing and a recipient of public assistance, I had internalized the stereotype society imposes upon the people of my community. Well, I am here today to shatter that perception and provide a true resolution that can address poverty: higher education.”

She went on to explain how New York State welfare policy allows two-year college students to count class time towards mandatory work hours, but not four-year college students.

“People enduring economic hardship shouldn’t have to choose between survival and a fighting chance at achieving financial freedom and security. Workers with bachelor’s degrees consistently earn more on the job, $200 more and higher a week, than those with associate’s degree.”

Christina presented other supporting data to accentuate her call for urgent policy change:

“Not only would this bill save administrative costs for the state, it will also expand opportunities for a better quality job and a better quality life for members of our communities. Nearly 90 percent of students receiving welfare who obtain a bachelor’s degree will move permanently off welfare and earn enough to move out of poverty.”

For more details about this recent Welfare Rights Initiative advocacy event, click to read coverage from the NYS Legislative Gazette or visit wri-ny.org.

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