Meeting on Campus

 Key Steps

A campus visit is an effective way to show Senators and Representatives how your campus and the student aid programs make a difference to their constituents. Members of Congress are usually very interested in meeting the people whose lives are affected by their votes — and when they do, the experience often remains with them for many years.


Scheduling the Appointment

Congress has regularly scheduled work periods when the members of the Senate and House of Representatives are in their states and districts meeting with local officials and constituents.  Check the Senate and House calendars for work period dates. Confirm the name and district office location of your Member of Congress.  Here is a task checklist:

  • Contact the district office at least one month in advance of the work period and ask the office receptionist to suggest how best to reach the district scheduler. 
  • Be prepared to offer the following information both verbally and in a written follow-up:
    • The general topic of discussion or purpose of meeting. 
    • Days and times available to meet and the length of time requested. Be prepared to be flexible on the date, and plan for last-minute cancellations.
    • A contact name, phone number, and e-mail address for communications about the meeting.  (Provide a cell phone number for any last-minute schedule changes.) 
  • The scheduler will generally review your meeting request with the member before committing to an appointment.
  • If the member is not available, the scheduler will likely ask if you’d like to meet with the appropriate staff member instead. You should say yes and meet with him or her. Staff are extremely important decision makers on behalf of the member – no matter how young and/or inexperienced they may appear. 

 

Preparing for the Visit

Learn about the member(s) who will be visiting you in order to best frame your conversation.  In particular, make note of the committees on which the member serves.  Here are some useful resources:

If the member of your congressional delegation sits on one of the committees that are especially important to NAICU, it is best to focus on the specific education-related issues under the jurisdiction of that committee. NAICU can provide committee-specific talking points to you.  These key committees are:

           Senate Committee on Finance    House Committee on Ways and Means  
  Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions   House Committee on Education and the Workforce
  Senate Committee on the Budget   House Committee on the Budget
  Senate Commitee on Appropriations   House Committee on Appropriations
  Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs   House Commitee on Veterans' Affairs
 

Have a thorough understanding of the issues you present.  Think about real-life examples from your campus that relate to the issues you will discuss during your visits.
 

Meeting Logistics

  • It’s possible that the member may have to cancel at the last minute because of schedule changes, and may arrange for you to meet with a district staff member instead.  You still can successfully make your case with the staff member.   
  • If there are multiple participants in a meeting, agree in advance who will take the lead. 
  • With a large group, it is usually best to designate just a few people to make the presentation, while noting that the others are available to answer specific questions. 
  • Leave plenty of time for the Member to talk and ask questions.

Your meeting time will be limited, so keep your message simple and straightforward.  Don’t try to package too many messages into a single meeting.  



The Conversation

  • Relate your cause to the interests of the member.
  • Thank the member for any past support for student aid funding and tax benefits, along with any specialized issue you know they have been involved in. 
  • Frame your issue within a broader public policy context. 
  • Use examples from your campus to support your position. 
  • Be clear, concise, and consistent. Target 3 minutes for opening remarks.
  • If there is an action you wish the member to take, be specific in making the request. 
  • Be prepared to respond to questions about the issues you raise.  If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, suggest where the information may be found or offer to provide it promptly after your visit.
  • Offer a brief written summary of the points you’ve made.  NAICU's website contains a significant number of resources, including Federal Higher Education Issues, Key Facts, Private Colleges: FactFile, and the Students First Initiative.
  • Thank them for their time.


More Ideas

  • Invite the member to meet students who receive federal student aid. Include a financial aid officer, who can answer any technical questions.  Give the students an opportunity to tell their stories. Hearing them will give the members a concrete reference point to use when aid programs are being debated in Congress. 
  • Take the member on a tour of campus to spotlight new facilities or faculty research that may have resulted from federal grant funds.
  • Invite your member of Congress to address students in a classroom setting or a Campus Forum. This gives them an opportunity to speak about issues before Congress, and gives students a chance to advocate for student aid.
  • Don't forget to coordinate with the member's communications team on a press release, photography and social media strategy for the more public aspects of the visit.
 

Final Chapter

  • Write a brief note thanking those with whom you met (e-mail works well for staff). Remember to include any additional information or material you promised during the conversation.
  • Please let us know how your meeting went, complete a Hill Visit Feedback Form. 
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