GVSU MSW Students Advocate at Capitol Action Day
April 03, 2019
By Deanna Ray Luton
April 2nd, 2019
Two students from GVSU’s Traverse City Regional Center’s traveled to the Capital to attend the National Association of Social Workers – Michigan (NASW-MI) Capitol Action Day in Lansing on March 19, 2019. Students, Brendan O’Donnel and Amy Cox, will both graduate this spring from the Masters of Social Work program.
According to O’Donnel, the event was created with the goal to link bachelor and master degree social work students to the “macro practice level through an introduction to legislative bill to law processes, fundamentals of legislative advocacy, and direct legislator contact.”
He further explained that NASW-MI is supportive of the Social Work School Loan Repayment bill. During the 2018 legislative season, Stephanie Chang introduced the bill into the House of Representatives and referred it to the Appropriations Committee. The bill needs to be reintroduced this season for another chance to become law.
NASW-MI and GVSU support these legislative efforts by encouraging social work students to participate and raise awareness surrounding these important measures. O’Donnel and Cox, along with other Michigan students, met with Representative Inman and lobbied alongside him at the state’s capitol.
This bill proposes an incentive to MSW graduates. According to an article posted to the NASW-MI website last year, the loan repayment program offers $15,000 per year for up to four years to social workers who commit to working in high need geographic areas around the state, high need sectors of the social work profession, and/or have an income below 250% of poverty or (2 of the 3 criteria must be met).
O’Donnel said Rep. Inman seemed the most moved by the fact that the average cost of living in Grand Traverse County is $47,000 and the average starting wage for an MSW in the area is $32,000. This does not factor in lost pay associated with the student loan repayment process. The disconnect between starting salary and debt incurred to obtain ones education is the primary catalyst behind the proposition of the Social Work School Loan Repayment bill.
“This experience allowed students to expand the skills they will need in order to advocate for their clients at the macro level,” said O’Donnel. “It lives up to the promise of GVSU’s Social Work degree as an Advanced Generalist program by linking all three practice levels.”