WASHINGTON -- Hamid Shirvani has a plan to enroll more San Joaquin Valley foster kids in college.
The president of California State University, Stanislaus, also has allies, experience and some political acumen on his side.
Now, all he needs is the money.
This week, Shirvani, along with California State University, Fresno, President John Welty and other CSU executives turned from the classroom to Capitol Hill in search of funds. The state university presidents are all members of the same team, but they are also out for themselves.
"A lot of us are hustling for money," Shirvani said Wednesday, while waiting between meetings in the Rayburn House Office Building. "You have a responsibility as an academic administrator to secure resources, and this is part of the job.
"If you don't like it," Shirvani added, "you should probably be doing something different."
Shirvani, Welty and the other presidents come with some common goals to support the 23 campuses and 450,000 students of the state university system. These include increasing federal Pell grants for students, boosting research dollars and aiding minority students.
The common goals mean a united effort, such as the Capitol Hill reception the university presidents held Wednesday night. The ongoing effort includes professional, day-to-day lobbying, for which the CSU system reported spending $580,000 last year.
Individually, some campuses hire their own lobbyists, as well. In 2006 and 2007, the California State University, Fresno, Foundation paid a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm $40,000 each year. That lobbying contract ended late last year, leaving it up to university officials to deliver their own pitch.
This week, Welty is asking for $1 million to help CSU, Fresno, prepare a regional water plan and $6 million to help boost the university's engineering programs. The university also wants $7 million for an applied agricultural research initiative involving several California campuses.
These funding requests are sometimes called earmarks, and they can stymie Congress. Republicans on Wednesday proposed freezing earmarks pending an independent commission study, but the Democratic- controlled House Budget Committee rejected the idea. Even so, lawmakers are advising that earmarks may be harder than ever to come by.
"We all recognize it's an uphill battle," Welty conceded, "but some of these programs are unique."
Online classes believed crucial
Welty was speaking outside the office of Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, where he had just crossed paths with Shirvani and two other Stanislaus State officials. Once Welty left, it was Shirvani's turn to meet with Radanovich.
"I warmed up the seat," Welty assured his fellow university president.
Accompanied by Kristin M. Olsen, Stanislaus State's public relations director, and by Vice President for University Advancement Susana Gajic- Bruyea, Shirvani pitched San Joaquin Valley lawmakers on two projects. One is a $3.5 million bid to provide more online classes, considered crucial for rural and remote areas.
Shirvani's other priority is a $717,306 request to expand the "Promise Scholars Program." The program targets foster children who are turning 18, fewer than 3 percent of whom go on to college. The money would pay for counseling and other assistance to help draw the students to Stanislaus State; then, it would pay for the laptop computers, student housing and supplies needed to stay in school.
"We're going to connect with them and bond with them," Shirvani said, "and this will create a natural pathway for them to come to the university."
There could be a big market, as more than 100,000 California children live in foster care. This includes an estimated 3,198 in the six-county Northern San Joaquin Valley region served by the Promise Scholars Program.
Realistically, though, Shirvani said, he expects he will need to keep pushing for at least two years before Congress comes across with any money.
"I've learned you have got to keep trying," Shirvani said. "If I don't try, then I miss the opportunity."
Bee Washington Bureau reporter Michael Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-383-0006.