How to Prepare for Your Meeting with Legislators
Schedule a meeting: Write or call your Representative and/or Senators to request a meeting. If more than one person from the college is participating, coordinate the visit through the college president's office. In some cases, your state association and/or director will coordinate meetings, so you should check with them before you make arrangements on your own.
Know the issues: When possible, let the office you are contacting know the issues you are interested in discussing before your visit. This way, the member and staff will be better prepared for your meeting.
Know your college: College leaders should be able to briefly articulate to Members of Congress their institution's mission, key programs offered, facts about the student population, the business community served by the college and the economic impact of college programs. A one-page descriptive summary of your college should be included in the materials you bring to Washington. Members of Congress and their staffs appreciate brevity; a one page summary about your college is more likely to be saved in a file and referred to than a bulky packet with the college catalog, numerous program brochures, and financial reports.
Know your community: You represent the same people your Representatives and Senators do. Be able to discuss what the needs of the community are, how your community is changing, and how the college is responding to these changes.
Know which federal programs are significant to your college: Community college students receive substantial assistance from federal student aid programs, especially the Pell Grant program. Additionally, many colleges benefit from grant programs such as Title III- A of the Higher Education Act (Strengthening Institutions), Title V (Hispanic-Serving Institutions),TRIO programs (which assist colleges to serve first-generation, disadvantaged students), the Carl D. Perkins Act and federal job training programs. Sharing the impact of these programs on your colleges demonstrates to members and their staff the importance of the federal investment in education and training programs.
Know your legislators: Knowing your Representative’s and Senators’ background helps you make a connection and helps you communicate with them in a way that makes your point come across most effectively. Do some research: what is their background - business, state government, teacher, etc.? What are their major issues - education, agriculture, defense, etc.? What committees do they sit on and how do they relate to the community college mission? Did they attend your college? Do their children go to your college now? What connections do they have at home (Rotary, local Chamber of Commerce, others)?
Pick a spokesperson: When visiting as a group, one person should start the meeting and be the spokesperson. Before the meeting, decide the key points that should be covered, and who will raise which points. This is important because it will help you share your information and not take too much of the staff or Member’s time. They will appreciate your advance preparation.