UM students rallied in Montgomery during the 2013 Higher Ed Day. So far, 50 students have signed up to attend this year’s event. Photos courtesy of Abigail Bradley.

Feb. 25, 2016 marks the latest iteration of a massive advocacy event for College students known as Higher Ed Day.

These student representatives from public universities across Alabama gather on the capitol steps in Montgomery to discuss with legislators the perceived inadequacies of the state budget for higher education.

Put together by the Higher Education Day Partnership, a Montgomery-based lobbying group, the purpose of Higher Ed Day is for students to call attention to the economic impact higher education has on the state, a point used to advocate for a more equitable division of the Education Trust Fund (ETF).

The ultimate goal of these civically-engaged activists is a one-third to two-thirds split of the ETF, with the latter going towards K-12 education and the former being used to fund higher education.

As it stands now, universities receive about 27 percent of the available funding, a percentage that some find frustrating, especially when coupled with the fact that for every one dollar invested in higher education the state receives a 12.5 billion dollar economic impact.

According to UM’s Higher Ed Day coordinator Lillie Childers, while the redistribution of funds may appear to be only a benefit to the state, it boils down to an issue of rationale.

“The legislature still takes money out of the trust fund to balance the general fund, and that’s been a consistent trend over the past ten years,” Childers said, “It’s hard for the state to justify increasing funding when [universities] can get those dollars elsewhere.”

Childers further emphasized the importance of student turnout to the rally as well.

“The event itself is during the legislative session when [the legislators] are going to be discussing the budget, so it’s to let them know that students are cognizant of the issues,” Childers said.

There are currently about 50 UM students signed up to attend, but the goal for overall attendance is 100. Students who wish to take part in the rally are encouraged to meet in the New Res parking lot no later than 7:45 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 25. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, as well as a free t-shirt for all that participate.