Editor’s note: This article is part of a feature series on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
1. Understand the direct impacts of HEA in your campus context
Stay up-to-date on the impact regulations have on both your institution and others in your state. Understanding the real-world impacts will let you speak in specifics rather than abstractions. Your institution’s financial aid director and Title IX coordinators may be particularly helpful in providing both data and anecdotes about regulatory impacts on your campus.
2. Stay informed on the HEA reauthorization process
Stay connected to general news outlets and higher education news sources for updates on the reauthorization process. Remaining connected to the issues provides a possible timeline and helps you understand lawmakers’ priorities. Understanding their priorities will help you engage them more effectively.
3. Seek out your policy makers and invite them to your campus
Connect with and invite lawmakers, whether friendly or skeptical, to your campus. You will advocate more effectively if you go beyond just knowing a lawmaker’s party to knowing them personally. Allowing policy makers to visit campus and engage your community also creates a better possibility for your perspective to be understood; in order to stand with you, they must first understand you.
4. Reach out to leaders of organizations that may not be obvious allies
Issues like religious freedom and regulatory burdens affect a wide range of organizations, not just Christian higher education institutions. Reach out to leaders of organizations that could possibly serve as part of a coalition to support CCCU causes. Religious organizations outside of higher education as well as other higher education institutions could be helpful in garnering support. You do not have to agree on all issues in order to work together effectively on some issues.
5. Coordinate with other CCCU institutions for advocacy efforts
Areas where CCCU institutions are concentrated can collaborate closely when reaching out to Senators or Representatives. Members that do not share the same districts of other CCCU institutions can utilize a statewide approach where they partner with other institutions with similar concerns and goals. If you have satellite campuses or online programs, consider reaching out to more than just the representative for your main campus.
6. Share stories and data to make your case
Develop talking points that are universally relevant to the case for Christian higher education, while also highlighting specific ways your campus is currently or was previously impacted. Both data and personal stories from your campus community can be helpful in making your case. Explain why your institution is valuable to your community not despite your religious mission, but because of it.
7. Educate your campus on issues related to the HEA reauthorization
Provide your institution’s personnel and students with information related to the HEA and its upcoming reauthorization. Educating those who serve in your institutions will help create a sense of unity and shared understanding. Students will be given the opportunity to learn more about civic engagement as well as personal impacts of the HEA as they seek to understand the role the federal government plays in higher education through this legislation. Out of all the colleges and universities they could have attended, your students chose you, so they have a vested interest in your institution maintaining its accreditation and eligibility for financial aid.
8. Exercise both patience and persistence in your advocacy efforts
Due to the time since the last HEA reauthorization in 2008, it is clear that this process remains slow-moving. While other federal priorities may be above the Higher Education Act, and while there will certainly be unforeseen situations that arise and require Congress’ attention, it is crucial that the CCCU and its institutions remain steadfast in advocating for both the reauthorization to take place during the 115th Congress and for it to address the concerns of religious institutions.