The 11th Annual Alabama Higher Education day was celebrated by thousands of college students across the state of Alabama on Feb. 28th.
“Higher Education day is an event formatted to get the attention of our state legislators,” said JSU SGA President Jason Sumner. “Tuition rates in Alabama are significantly higher because of the lack of funding, so we go there to get them to consider us when they pass legislation.”
The event was attended by numerous four-year colleges around the state of Alabama. The ceremony opened with a parade around the capitol, which was lead by the University of West Alabama marching band. Students from the University of Montevallo, University of West Alabama, University of Alabama, Auburn University, and many other schools were represented in the parade.
Jacksonville State University had the most students to participate. Along with students, the SGA and the Freshman Forum were in full attendance.
After the parade, students lined up surrounding the Alabama State House for a rally lead by Mr. Gordon Stone, Director of the Alabama Higher Education Partnership.
“We’ve seen improvement over the last few years, but we are still six percentage points behind where we need to be in regards to funding of higher education in the state of Alabama,” said Stone. Mr. Gordon educated the crowd on the discrepancy between where the higher education budget is and where it should be. He drove home the point that higher education is supposed to be given 1/3 of the state budget, or around 33%. Currently, it receives 27%.
Students who attended the rally were entertained by the Alabama State University Marching Band and JSU’s own Southerners and ballerinas. They also listened to guest speakers from around the state.
State legislators, businessmen, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley also attended the rally. Before addressing the crowd, Governor Bentley spoke about his admiration for the students in attendance. “I love these things (the rallies),” he said. “You guys are a passionate group.” He also reaffirmed his position on funding for higher education. “Of course, I’ll support you. I’ll always support you fully.”
Although schools across the state have seen their funding cut, JSU did see a little relief. “Thanks to the hard work of Don Killingsworth, our Government relations officer and others, JSU only saw their funding cut by about four percent,” said Sumner.“The Board of Trustees does not want to raise tuition, nor does the administration. They want to keep college affordable for us. Mr. Killingsworth and his staff have worked tirelessly to make sure our tuition rates stay affordable.”
At the end of the day, Higher Education Day leaves an impact beyond just the parade and rally.
“This is the most important civic engagement that students at this university will participate in every year,” Sumner said. “If students aren’t becoming civically engaged at this point in their life, ‘will they ever’ is the question.”