Hundreds of public university students came together in Montgomery, Alabama in a push for lawmakers to increase funding for higher education.
The event was organized as part of the annual Higher Education Day, organized each year by the Higher Education Partnership with help from the Student Government Association from each university.
“We’re going to say ‘no’ when it comes to taking money from the education fund,” said Gordon Stone, executive director of the Alabama Higher Education Partnership and the mayor of Pike Road, in the opening remarks at the gathering on the State House steps. “We’re going to say ‘yes’ to investing in universities, because we increase income.”
While a Senate committee recently approved an Education Trust Fund budget that would see higher education in the state receive around $1.5 billion in funding, which is just over 25% of the total Education Trust Fund, advocates would like to see that amount increased to 33% of the total ETF, or $1.9 billion, writes Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser.
“Do you know that if (higher education) were funded at one-third [of the ETF] last year, just last year, we would have had 570 million more dollars in higher ed, and your tuition, I want to bet, probably wouldn’t have gone up,” Stone said.
Stone went on to cite a a report from the University of Alabama that found for every $1,000 invested into higher education, income increased by $8.7 million, reports Jim Little for The Plainsman.
However, that amount is not currently being considered by Governor Robert Bentley, whose proposed ETF budget includes a $55 million increase, or 3.5%. The version approved by the Senate committee cut that to a $3.3 million increase, or only 0.25%, a decision which affected local universities, who, under the Senate version, received far less money than they would have under Bentley’s budget.
“It’s very very important. I know us personally, we need more funding. The funding we have has allowed us to expand our programs. We’ve been able to add a integrated marketing and communications major at the university of west alabama,” said student Katie Milligan.
Bentley agreed with advocates, telling them at the rally that higher education is not only important for them as individuals, but for the state as a whole.
“Well we actually in our budget increased it 3.5 percent. I believe that we should continue to increase our funding to higher education. It is so important as far as advanced manufacturing, advanced job in this state,” said Bentley.
The final version of the ETF budget still needs to be approved by the full chamber. The Senate is expected to vote on the budget next week, after which it will move to the House of Representatives, who may alter the budget once again.