Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

SGA sponsors trip for UA students to Montgomery

As the state capital, Montgomery is Alabama’s hub of politicians and lobbyists, but on Thursday, it will experience a rush of public university students as part of Higher Education Day.

Sean Ross, SGA associate vice president of community and university affairs, said Higher Education Day is a time for students to advocate for increased funding and focus.

“It’s really a day to bring the schools to the legislature so they know we care about our higher education,” he said.

Students will receive free transportation, breakfast and lunch, a T-shirt and a souvenir bag. Panhellenic points and SLPro volunteer hours will be offered, and a signed excuse for class will be provided. Students will also be offered a guaranteed seat for the Capital at the Capstone on March 16, a free formal dinner and town hall discussion.

Kyle Jones, SGA director of lobby affairs, said part of Higher Education Day’s purpose is to get to know legislators and show them that higher education is important to their constituents. He said leaving the problems for lobbyists and politicians to solve has proven ineffective.

“It kind of goes back to the question of who is in the education system,” Jones said. “[Students] are not fighting the same old battle, and they are not going to keep us in the repetitive cycle we’ve been going through these past couple of years. They will be able to help us improve our system.”

(See also “Bipartisan campus event weighs in on state legislature“)

Margaret Garner, director of the UA department of health promotion and wellness, said being informed, advocating for one’s values and communicating with leaders are part of giving back.

“In the particular area of education for our people, it is at the heart of our present state as a nation and state, and the heartbeat of our future,” Garner said. “Education affects everyone. We need everyone knowing why and making certain that it is front and center on the minds and decisions for all leaders.”

Garner said representatives are critical to government as representatives.

“[What] they do affects us all,” she said. “How can they know and then reflect in their decisions what we truly believe and want for our community, state or nation if we do not communicate with them?”

Stephen Katsinas, professor of higher education and director of the Education Policy Center, said federal Pell grants are protected and healthy, but states have slashed higher education funding while increasing aid in ways that do not compensate for inflation.

“We’re at a better place than we’ve been, but it’s not what it should be,” he said. “Our state’s most vulnerable students economically are not completing degrees at the level we would like for the 21st-century workforce.”

(See also “Education, literacy key to state health“)

Jonathan Koh, a Ph.D. candidate and research associate in higher education, said the consequences of decreased state funding can result in increased loans or decreased enrollment.

“Neither of those are good things,” Koh said.

Schools that take the hit may have to increase tuition or decrease quality to keep up, and research from the center shows that many public systems are not balancing budget and needs.

“They basically don’t have the infrastructure or funding to effectively educate every single student that applies,” Koh said.

Parker Graham, SGA vice president of external affairs, said every year matters when it comes to funding higher education.

“It’s not like, ‘Okay, we’re done.’ You keep on it. You keep the pressure on. It holds them accountable,” Graham said. “Education directly affects us. It’s our age group. It’s our generation.”

Graham said the event is close to full, but students can still sign up to help meet the goal. While public institutions in the state face cuts together and rally together at the capital, school pride will not be absent from the event.

“This year our goal is 201,” he said. “Auburn’s is 200, so we had to one-up them.”

Students can register to attend at the SGA website under upcoming events at

(See also “State legislature out of touch with budget and Alabama citizens“)

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