College students who want to make their voices heard in the Alabama legislature will have the opportunity to do so next Thursday, Feb. 28.
Next Thursday is Higher Ed Day, on which college students from around the state are encouraged to travel to Montgomery and petition for lower tuition costs.
This week, SGA officers and representatives from Alabama’s public universities, including JSU, met with several senators and the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives, Mike Hubbard, to discuss the importance of higher education.
“The biggest thing we deal with every year is the state budgets,” Hubbard explained. “In Alabama, we have two budgets. We have an education budget, which has most of the growth revenues tied to it, and it’s earmarked just for education. Then we have a general fund.”
Hubbard added that although “the education budget is in pretty good shape”, new payroll taxes that were put into place on the federal level have cost the education trust fund about 60 million dollars.
Sometimes lobbying and petitioning can be frustrating, especially when results are not visible. But Gordon Stone, Director of the Higher Education Partnership, encourages students not to give up. “The process is not a one-shot deal; never has been, never will be,” Stone said.
“You can’t go to Washington and visit your Congressman and expect that to have an outcome on the vote. You can’t come down here for one day and expect that to change the outcome of the vote. But if you don’t come down here, you can be guaranteed that you won’t have any impact on the outcome.”
Higher Ed Day gives college students in Alabama the opportunity to show all 140 members of the state legislature that they care about how money is spent in the field of higher education, and that the decisions made by representatives affect them personally.
“I know it’s easy for someone to say, ‘Getting up and going down there, standing up, yelling for an hour, getting on the bus and coming back home doesn’t make a difference’, says Stone. “That’s like saying that sitting in the stands doesn’t impact the football game. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t need to go to the church every Sunday and sit in the pew, because the preacher’s not talking to me; I’m already saved.’ It’s seeing a limited perspective of what goes on. This is one major step in the process.”
Hubbard encourages students to contact their legislators individually as well. “People certainly recognize that you’re here,” he said of the Higher Education Day rally. “But the most important thing is when you talk one-on-one with your legislator. That’s the most powerful lobbying that can be done.”
Students who want to participate in Higher Ed Day can contact Jade Wagner, Vice President of the Student Senate, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 256-782-8493.