MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Thursday is Higher Education Advocacy Day at the Alabama statehouse. It’s a day meant to make sure lawmakers understand the importance of funding colleges and universities adequately.
Higher Ed Day is usually a day of pageantry, parades, and crowds of people organized by the Higher Education Partnership.
“We provide a place for all of those constituents, students, faculty, staff, alums, people that believe that universities make a difference in our lives and make a difference in our jobs and our economy as a whole,” Executive Director Gordon Stone explained.
This year, all of those people, and elected officials, won’t be on the statehouse steps. They’ll be getting together online instead.
“We’ve put together in one hour a virtual Higher Ed Day rally. So we’ll have the signs and the balloons and sort of the same on the ground visual, but we’ll mesh that with a zoom activity where we can still open up and invite our constituents to participate,” Stone said.
There will be something of a personal touch to this year’s Higher Ed Day. Usually, lunch is held on the Capitol lawn but instead, it will be delivered to lawmakers’ desks, along with goody bags full of information about the impact higher education makes on Alabama.
“Our universities have a huge economic impact. We have the largest economic engine in the state,” said Stone. “Our public universities generate over $20 billion annually to the economy, from the dollars that the students invest in the communities of 14 different communities where our great institutions are located, to the to the actual return from the faculty and their work to the research that’s done and what it brings back into our state.”
That impact is felt even deeper as we navigate through this pandemic.
“We took a roll of paper towels, and we’ve identified on that role, the multitude of jobs that are engaged in producing their paper towel and getting it into the hands of the consumer,” Stone described, reinforcing the message that higher education makes a difference in Alabama, a difference that’s worth the state’s investment. “If you think about the conservationists, the forester, you think about the chemical engineers, the mechanical engineers, the people that design the industrial systems that allow that product to occur, the marketers, they’re the accountants, the even the logistics people that get it to the shelves that we then in turn purchase.”