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

Students, administrators prepare to lobby in Montgomery

On Thursday, UA students will storm the steps of the State House in Montgomery to advocate for higher education funding in the state of Alabama.

The annual event is called Higher Education Day and is a chance for students to participate in a rally and one-on-one meeting with their state representatives.

This year’s rally will be unique, because Gov. Robert Bentley announced a 3 percent across-the-board cut in state education in February. This cut will reportedly cost the University $4.2 million.

Bill Jones, the director of government relations for the University of Alabama system, said in recent years the University has seen a reduction of approximately 30 percent in state support.

“The loss of that support has been a major factor in the higher than normal tuition increases our students have seen,” Jones said.

The Higher Education Partnership puts on the event and serves as a vehicle for promoting awareness of how higher education betters the lives of the people of Alabama. Gordon Stone, the executive director of the Partnership, said this year is the 14th year and there will be an estimated 2,000 people in attendance, representing the state’s 13 four-year public universities.

In the past 20 years, the amount of the Education Trust Fund Budget allocated to higher education in the state has dropped from 30 plus percent to 27 percent, Stone said. Stone said the goal of the Partnership is to show how the loss of funding hurts the state.

“Every dollar spent for education creates multiple dollars returned to the state’s economy,” Stone said. “That type of economic growth will stimulate jobs which leads to a better quality of life for citizens.”

Tuscaloosa Rep. John Merrill said it is important for the legislature to consider who will benefit the most.  Though he is not on the education budget or general fund committees, the issue will come to the floor of the state house for debate by May.

“It’s a very difficult time for every segment of the population,” Merrill said.  “We have to try to make the choices on who receives funding and who doesn’t receive funding based on the largest number of people affected.”

SGA Senator Mary Sellers Shaw is one of more than 160 students from UA signed up to go to Montgomery. She said she wants the allocation of money to go back to the one-thirds/two-thirds system, with one-thirds of the state money for higher education and two-thirds for K-12.

“We’re not trying to take money away from [K-12],” Shaw said. “The way the future is going, having a college degree is going to be important in getting a job.”

Shaw said students on an individual level will be able to feel the cuts in higher education spending, whether it is a rise in tuition costs or a decline in the availability of scholarships.

Jones said he is hopeful in what the students will be able to accomplish and optimistic about the situation in general.

“When elected officials have the opportunity to hear from their constituents, it made a positive difference,” Jones said of previous Higher Education Days. “Events such as Higher Ed Day give elected officials a perfect chance to get personal feedback from the students who attend our universities and represent the future of our state and nation. I certainly believe our elected officials will be as supportive as possible.”

Shaw has been going to Higher Education Day for years, but this will be her first year as a college student. She said there will be a parade, a rally during which speakers and legislators will speak on the importance of higher education and a meet-and-greet for students to introduce themselves to their state representatives.

“There aren’t many opportunities for college students to go to introduce themselves and say, ‘Hey, this is an issue that I think is important,’” Shaw said. “Since we are college students right now, this is affecting us, and it’ll affect our children and it’ll affect our brothers and sisters that are about to come through.”

Students can sign up until today at 4 p.m. in the SGA office to ride via bus to Montgomery.


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