by Mary Ellen Flannery
If you’re a poor college student—and let’s face it, with rising tuition costs and skyrocketing debt loads, they’re almost all poor college students—it can be difficult to cover the various fees associated with your education. For example, in Maryland, education majors have been required to pay for background checks in fall and spring, in every school districts where they intern or student teach.
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“When you’re a college student, that’s a lot of money!” said KeShanda Golden, president of the MSEA-SP (Maryland State Education Association-Student Program) Advisory Council for Political Action. “It was a major concern, and we were thinking, ‘What can we do?’”
For Golden and Keldene Small, the advisory council’s vice-president, that wasn’t just a hypothetical question. The two college students researched the issue with their peers and then actually wrote state legislation. This month, both the state House and Senate voted yes on HB 1408—no more extra fees for future teachers! Students still will have to pay for a background check, but just once a year.
“I feel so empowered,” said Keldene Small, a University of Maryland student. “Never did I expect to be making legislation when I joined the MSEA, but we made a difference for all the students across the state.”
For Golden and Small, the issue never was that student teachers shouldn’t have background checks. The issue was that it was a hardship on students to have to undertake them two, three, or four times a year. Depending on the Maryland school district, the checks can cost upwards of $60 or $70 each. The costs add up, and that’s money that most students would much rather spend on textbooks or food, said Golden, a Bowie State University student.
Keep in mind that college tuition has increased an average 27 percent at public colleges over the past five years, and student debt in America has reached a record high, topping an average $26,000 per graduate last year. Every dollar counts for these students.
Golden thanked MSEA for their help in “turning student complaints into a legislative solution,” and congratulated the student members who took action to make the bill a reality. “Through our membership, we definitely pull together to help educators. Every student should be a member!”