AL Higher Education Day opts for parade over rally in 2018

AL Higher Education Day opts for parade over rally in 2018
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

Thousands of college students and faculty members made their voices heard during the 19th annual Alabama Higher Education Advocacy Day.

Higher Education Day gives students and others the opportunity to make their voices heard about higher education. The purpose is to urge lawmakers to increase funding for public universities.

Usually, there's a rally on the statehouse steps. For 2018, however, it was a little different.

"We thought if we could put the energy of the rally into the parade and then have a chance for them to talk one-on-one with these policymakers, that the policymakers would really hear the most important part of this which is the story of the individuals," explained Gordon Stone, who in addition to being the mayor of Pike Road, serves as the executive director of the Higher Education Partnership.

"Why did they choose to attend a university? And the ways they want to make our state a better place because that's really what universities are all about. If we could motivate every young person who's a third grader to aspire to have a college education and a degree because they believe they can change this state and change this country, wouldn't that be a great thing?" Stone added.

Students also got the chance to speak with legislators and voice their concerns.

According to the Higher Education Partnership, Alabama's funding for higher education ranks No. 11 out of the 16 states that make up the Southeast.

"The better we can do to make them more affordable and more accessible, the more likely it is that students from every part of Alabama will pursue that dream and that's what will change that," Stone said.

Lashawn Alexander and Alexia Huguley are both seniors at Auburn University at Montgomery and both are first-generation college students.

"My parents didn't have that opportunity or the funding to go to college," Alexander said, "so it feels good that I can do that and do something with my life."

"My parents, they didn't have the opportunity to go to school, so like working in plants and all, so this is for them," Huguley said.

Alexander wants to be an occupational therapist while Huguley aspires to be an optometrist. Both said they need more funding to continue their education.

"We need this money so we can finish strong, go on to higher education, more higher education, and get a degree," Alexander said.

The more money given to supporting higher education means lower tuition costs.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.