College-Like Pep Rally On Alabama State House Steps In Support Of Higher Education

Posted by Bryan Henry  -  bio | email


It was a little bit of shock and awe, mixed in with some football strategy.

"Defense! Defense!"

Along with some old-fashion begging.

"Fair funding!"

Gordon Stone says higher education in Alabama has been cut a little more than 31% over the last 2 years. He says that has forced colleges and universities to hold off on filling vacant jobs and in some cases merging programs and raising tuition.

"What people sometimes forget is college and universities leave a mark on the state," said Stone, Executive Director the Higher Education Partnership, an advocacy group for college faculty and students.

The message at the Statehouse, backed by 3,000 students from 13 four-year public colleges and universities, wasn't necessarily an isolated one. After all this is the largest rally in the capital and they've gathering on the Statehouse steps for the last 13 years.

"It's not overkill. Investments in these schools turn over 8 times in Alabama," said Stone.

The odd thing about the rally is Stone and company aren't rallying for a specific amount. They fully acknowledge Alabama lawmakers will have their hands full as they carve out an education budget based on uncertainties. For example, the economy and the fact the Governor's proposed education budget of $5.4 billion includes $350 million from the Jobs bill that Congress may or may not pass.

"Every single dollar invested is an investment in your future," Governor Riley said from the podium.

Back in the 1990's higher education in Alabama received around 33% from the state's education trust fund.  It's 28% today.

That's why students like Justin Edwards say now more than ever the fight for higher education dollars is even more critical.

"We come here to ask for more money so colleges will stop raising tuition rates on us," said Edwards, a student at AUM.

For more than an hour the band of students shouted, cheered and trumpeted their pleas for what they hope will be a fair and equitable distribution of higher education dollars.

The clock is ticking for state lawmakers with only 12 legislative days left in this session.

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