(Courtesy: Maddie Bertempefel)
MONTGOMERY, AL (WIAT) — Students from 14 Alabama public colleges and universities gathered in Montgomery Thursday to advocate for more funding for higher education.
The 25th Annual Higher Education Day kicked off with a parade of students led by the Alabama State University Marching Band.
Hundreds made their way to the statehouse, bearing pride in the school and a message for lawmakers: An investment in it is an investment in the state’s future.
“At the end of the day we are all students of a public university in Alabama,” said University of Alabama at Huntsville Jr. Jarrett Willingham. “We are here wanting to make a difference, and we hope to advocate for more funding for public universities in the state.”
Alabama A&M senior Giella Greene-Mascotti shared why she’s there.
“HBCUs need the money,” said Green-Mascotti. “This is what we are here for. We are very short of funding, so anything we can do to get funds for our university to help students succeed is what we will do.”
The annual event is arranged by the Alabama Higher Education Partnership. Executive Director Gordon Stone said they are pleased with the education budget this year but want to remind lawmakers that public money should go to public schools.
This comes as the state is considering a loan for Birmingham Southern College, a private institution.
“We also want to make sure that we also don’t do something that’s a bit scary, which is putting public money out of the public sector,” Stone said. “So this year we are reminding people that public money should go to public universities.”
Speaking to the students, Governor Kay Ivey gave a shout-out to her alma mater, Auburn University.
“War Eagle,” Ivy said to the cheers of the crowd.
Ivey encouraged the students to stay in the state after graduation and find work in Alabama.
“We are laser-focused on continuing to bring quality, high-paying jobs to the state, and we are eager for you, our future leaders, to join this workforce,” said Ivey.
According to the Higher Education Partnership, higher education brings in about $20 billion to the state each year.