The Vanguard

USA joins fight for funding

Currently%2C+USA+only+plans+to+send+fifty-five+students+to+Higher+Education+Day+this+year.
Currently, USA only plans to send fifty-five students to Higher Education Day this year.

Currently, USA only plans to send fifty-five students to Higher Education Day this year.

Shannon Lundgren

Shannon Lundgren

Currently, USA only plans to send fifty-five students to Higher Education Day this year.

Shannon Lundgren, Reporter

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Over 210 USA students, faculty and staff went to Montgomery on Thursday to participate in Higher Education Day, according to SGA Attorney General JuWan Robinson.

Higher Education Day is a rally that advocates on behalf of government funding for four-year public universities. Robinson lead the SGA effort to transport students to the rally.

“This is the largest turn-out we’ve had in years,” Robinson said.

Robinson said that SGA efforts to convince student organizations to participate in Higher Education Day in the last two years and widespread faculty support contributed to this year’s success.

“I was amazed by how much you can actually achieve when different groups work together and I think yesterday [Higher Education Day] was a prime example of that,” Robinson said.   

The Higher Education Partnership, the advocacy organization that coordinates Higher Education Day, stated that a decline in state funding increased the tuition burden on students and their families.

According to a Higher Education Partnership hand-out, “Alabama’s tuition and fees equal 18.5 percent of the median household income, whereas the average in the southeast is 12 percent. Without competitive state funding, this trend will discourage enrollment.”

Many lawmakers spoke at Higher Education Day, including Gov. Robert Bentley and Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey.  While all of the lawmakers who spoke at Higher Education Day agreed that funding four-year universities is important, none explicitly agreed to work to increase it.  

The only student to speak at the rally was USA’s SGA President Joshua Crownover. Crownover spoke about contributions students make to their communities through service projects.

“These experiences don’t only benefit these communities, they benefit you,” Crownover said in his speech. “We’re here [at college] to get a job, but we’re here to have a job to give back to the communities and society that has invested in us so much.”  

After the rally, USA students had the opportunity to eat lunch in the RSA Tower with lawmakers from the Mobile and Baldwin County areas, giving students the opportunity to address legislators individually.  

At the lunch, USA sophomore De’Siona “Dazii” Girder said, “If it wasn’t for higher education, I wouldn’t be standing here with y’all, with an associate’s degree under my belt before the age of 18.”

Additionally, four students, Elizabeth Bemis, Cameron Graham, Omar Mulla, and Ayla Oden presented their research to legislators, according to Dr. John “Jack” Shelley-Tremblay, director of the office of undergraduate research. The students conducted their research as part of the 2016 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship.

Whether or not this investment in time, effort and money will pay off in dividends for governmental funding for four-year institutions remains to be seen. According to their spring 2017 budget, SGA has allocated $2,600 to participating in Higher Education Day.  

USA will decide whether or not the university is participating in Higher Education Day next year.  

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USA joins fight for funding