05/15/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Student Government Fills in the Gaps

With the recent coverage of tuition hikes and talks of President Obama's plan to reform education lending, it is more apparent than ever that the future of students' educations are more in the hands of individual students than they have ever been.

As budget cuts spread across university offices and divisions, unique challenges are posed to administrators to determine how best to serve their student body and provide them with the resources they need to be successful in these difficult economic times. Now more than ever, it's vitally important that student governments across the nation at Universities and colleges participate in strident advocacy and creative initiative works that provide students with tools to maintain the competitive edge in the troublesome job markets.

As a student at Emory University, I can only truly speak to my own experiences with student government and the work that we've done this year to provide a foundation for success for our students. In attempting to advocate for student needs, the main issue that often stands in the way of success is MONEY. Universities are seeing their own job layoffs and funding decreases as alumni donations wash away with the economy and the recession hits home where it hurts the most. Without money, it's even more difficult to get student the type of support they need in a bad economy.

It's actually rather ironic that at the time students across the country need their student governments the most, they are in difficult positions themselves to come through for their respective constituents.

With a little bit of creativity, though, student leaders can foster the same sense of support. At Emory, we have done this by using creative resources we already have available to us to provide solutions to top concerns for students: career guidance, academic advising, among others.

In these tough economic times, I urge student leaders across the country to use those tools they have already available to them at little or no additional cost to the student body!

  • Why not use graduate students as mentors for undergraduates as a supplement to expensive, professional career advisors?
  • Why not use students as peer advisors and student liaisons from departments to increase the information students have about classes and opportunities from their college departments, thus increasing the value of their degrees?
  • Why not advocate for increased work-study jobs on campus to provide affordable graduate childcare for graduate students with children?

These type of creative solutions are what students across the country need now more than ever and their student governments are in place to accomplish more than they ever could, even in the most successful of times.

Desperate times do not call for desperate measures, but rather they call for just a little bit more creativity. We, as students, are the most equipped to provide ourselves with the resources we need to be successful. We should not allow budget cuts to inhibit our college experiences, we should not allow a tough job market to limit our potentials, we should not receive anything less from our student governance organizations than that which we need to graduate college in a better state than when we arrived.

Too often, student governments are seen as ways for students to bolster their resumes or just some elite, exclusive organization on campus that does nothing. We cannot afford this ever, but especially not now, and our student governments must fill in the gaps for our Universities and colleges across the country.

After all, with a little bit of creativity, who knows the type of innovative and useful work we can get done for our fellow peers?