Above: Melinda Lynch (left), Director of Financial Aid at St. Catharine College, talks to Senator Mitch McConnell (R - Ky.) about continued federal aid for college students at a recent luncheon in Bardstown.
In these tough economic times, college students are fighting for every tuition dollar they can get. With Washington threatening to cut federal student aid, representatives from St. Catharine College have been taking the voice of the students to representatives in Congress.
Dr. Vicki Guthrie, SCC's Vice President for Enrollment Management and Dean of Students, and Melinda Lynch, SCC's Director of Financial Aid, attended a luncheon on Jan. 4 sponsored by the Nelson County Economic Development Agency and Bardstown Rotary Club with the featured speaker, Senator Mitch McConnell. Senator McConnell's address to the group covered many current political issues, from the deficit to the presidential election.
Following the luncheon, Dr. Guthrie and Mrs. Lynch had an opportunity to speak briefly with Senator McConnell about St. Catharine College, particularly the issue of support for student financial aid in the ongoing budget discussions at the federal level.
"Over 90 percent of St. Catharine College students receive financial aid," said Guthrie. "Approximately 50 percent of our students receive federally-funded Pell Grants."
St. Catharine and McConnell already have a connection as the senator's wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, delivered the keynote address at the college's 79th Commencement Exercise this past May.
"In meeting with Senator McConnell, I was able to thank him for supporting student aid and emphasize the importance of the Pell Grant Program to our students," Lynch added. "He gave us some positive feedback, stating we should expect the current amount of the Pell Grant to remain at $5,550 per year. This does support what we have been hearing. Other changes can be expected, but this is a tremendous positive for our students."
Last semester, St. Catharine College participated in an initiative of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities, along with the other independent colleges in Kentucky, in sending postcards to our U.S. senators and representatives thanking them for supporting federal student aid.
"This was felt to be an opportune time, as decisions about Pell funding were being debated behind the scenes by the Joint Senate and House Super Committee and by the Appropriations Committee. We sent out nearly 400 postcards from students, faculty and staff from St. Catharine," said Lynch.
On December 15, 2011, Lynch and SCC's Executive Vice President Roger Marcum attended an AIKCU meeting in Frankfort of Financial Aid Directors and Campus Liaisons.
Lynch said, "With the 2013-2014 Kentucky biennial budget cycle approaching, we spent the afternoon discussing ways in which we, as a group, could advocate for continued funding of state grants. It was decided we would initiate another postcard mailing to state legislatures in January. We also discussed designating specific Wednesdays for small groups to visit the capital. Mr. Marcum mentioned we could plan a press conference in the rotunda of the capital. It would be conducted in a positive manner with students telling their stories - the idea being to bring attention to private colleges. This would require much planning, buy-in from the campus presidents, and a large number of participates from all the independent college campuses to be effective. The meeting concluded with AIKCU president Gary Cox agreeing to send these ideas to the campus Presidents to see how we would move forward."
Guthrie added, "We encourage students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college to communicate to their legislators on the state and national level their appreciation for their support of student financial aid and the importance of continued support of these important programs."