Saad Farhed and Hiba Fareed had never vis­ited the Mass­a­chu­setts State­house before, but they were deter­mined to make their first visit count.

On March 1, the two North­eastern Uni­ver­sity stu­dents criss­crossed the capitol, meeting with state rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors to push for con­tinued sup­port of need-​​based finan­cial aid pro­grams. With the leg­is­la­ture expected to face tough bud­getary deci­sions this year, the stu­dents hoped to make their case for pre­serving this funding.

Farhed and Fareed, both mechan­ical engi­neering majors, said state finan­cial aid was crit­ical to their own col­lege careers, and being part of that dis­cus­sion at the state level was an eye-​​opening experience.

It gave me great insight into how the leg­isla­tive process goes,” said Farhed, a senior.

I felt kind of in awe that I’d get the oppor­tu­nity to meet all the rep­re­sen­ta­tives and sen­a­tors, and it was an honor lis­tening to them,” added Fareed. The junior noted that receiving finan­cial aid pro­vides stu­dents with extra moti­va­tion to excel in the classroom.

The event was part of Stu­dent Finan­cial Aid Day, which was orga­nized by the Asso­ci­a­tion of Inde­pen­dent Col­leges and Uni­ver­si­ties in Mass­a­chu­setts and drew stu­dents from 29 col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across the state.

Mass­a­chu­setts House Speaker and North­eastern alumnus Robert DeLeo addressed all the stu­dents before they fanned out across the State­house. He com­mended them for par­tic­i­pating, saying that hearing directly from con­stituents on issues can have a pow­erful effect.

I hon­estly feel higher edu­ca­tion is very impor­tant in the Com­mon­wealth of Mass­a­chu­setts. It’s some­thing we should be proud of and some­thing we should pro­tect,” said DeLeo. He also stressed the legislature’s duty to work on behalf of mea­sures that give Mass­a­chu­setts the highly edu­cated work­force it needs to thrive.

DeLeo, BA’72, also greeted the North­eastern stu­dents indi­vid­u­ally and spoke proudly of his edu­ca­tion on Hunt­ington Avenue, hailing not only the university’s sig­na­ture co-​​op pro­gram but also Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun’s lead­er­ship in raising Northeastern’s inter­na­tional profile.

During their visit, the North­eastern stu­dents spoke with Sen. Sonia Chang-​​Diaz, who thanked them for addressing the topic with her. They vis­ited Rep. Gloria Fox’s office, as well.

Northeastern’s stu­dent finan­cial aid and gov­ern­ment affairs offices helped pre­pare the stu­dents for the event, as part of the university’s ongoing com­mit­ment to pro­tect need-​​based state and fed­eral aid for higher education.

As one example of that com­mit­ment, Pres­i­dent Aoun is leading a group of top higher edu­ca­tion offi­cials throughout the country in urging the Obama admin­is­tra­tion to pre­serve the Perkins Stu­dent Loan Pro­gram, which ben­e­fits more than 500,000 low-​​income col­lege stu­dents each year but faces an uncer­tain future beyond 2014.