This week, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities hosted the 23rd AJCU Government Relations Network and Financial Aid Directors Conference in Washington, D.C. The first in-person gathering since 2019, the conference provided a forum for policy discussions that will guide AJCU’s advocacy agenda for the next Congress.

On Tuesday, September 20, AJCU’s president, Rev. Michel J. Garanzini, S.J., set the stage for the conference by reflecting on Jesuit higher education, its history, and its future. Following that centering conversation, colleagues from Loyola University Maryland, The University of Scranton, Gonzaga University and Marquette University led a session on AJCU’s advocacy priorities.

On Wednesday, September 21, U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), a graduate of the Santa Clara University School of Law, hosted AJCU’s meeting in the United States Capitol. Policy leaders from the American Council on Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities unpacked issues of importance to Jesuit colleges and universities, including the diversity in admissions cases currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court and other areas where judicial action will impact higher education policy; a deep dive into of the U.S. Department of Education’s regulatory agenda; and a comprehensive summary of the Department’s Title IX regulations.

Following that session, senior staff from the U.S. Senate joined the group to discuss the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 appropriations process, the future of earmarks, and what is in store for FY24. This lively and candid discussion provided insight to the process and politics in play as Congress tries to keep the government up and running.

Finally, AJCU welcomed the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Nasser Paydar; the Director of the Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based and Community Engagement, Maggie Siddiqi; and Senior Policy Advisor, Antoinette Flores, to learn more about the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities. The Department of Education’s team generously took questions from the AJCU GR/FA Network after their remarks.

AJCU’s Vice President of Government Relations, Jenny Smulson, said, “It was energizing to witness the strong engagement of this team of professionals from AJCU institutions as they grappled with the challenges ahead in the advocacy space. Ensuring policy makers better understand the value of Jesuit post-secondary education and increasing investments in federal need-based aid is crucial to ensuring that students who seek a Jesuit higher education have access to it.”