By Elise Kidd
A group of students from The University of Montevallo, primarily students involved in the Student Government Association, met in Alabama’s state capitol on Feb. 24, to communicate with state legislators about the importance of funding for higher education.
Montevallo was one of Alabama’s 14 public universities represented at Higher Education Day, an annual event where students from these universities can show their desire and support for funding in higher education by having a chance to speak to their representatives in person.
Students were encouraged to focus on higher educational funding, rather than other higher educational bills such as House Bill 9, related to critical race theory.
Scott Dillard, Vice President of Advancement and External Affairs for the University of Montevallo said, “The focus of this rally was education funding and I talked with SGA about focusing the discussion on that. The Higher Education Partnership asked us to stay on message about funding and having multiple messages dilutes the message.”
Students participated in a parade to start the day, waving hand-made signs about educational funding, and walked through a guided loop in Montgomery, ending on the capitol lawn. Students then heard from legislators and the current governor, Kay Ivey, and ate lunch with their district representatives.
“Higher Ed Day is a way for students to show that our representatives and the older generations should put money and thought into our education. We will be the ones that will inherit this world … For us to become well-rounded individuals we need to have an education system that will allow us to achieve our dreams,” said Abigail Heuton about the importance of the event. Heuton is UM SGA’s Director of External Affairs. She organized, as well as led, most of Higher Ed Day.
Ivey’s speech seemed to prove Heuton’s words about the importance of students true. Ivey addressed the students present, and said, “You all are the future leaders of our state.”
Higher Ed Day is important to many of UM’s SGA representatives for a multitude of reasons. For example, president of SGA, AnaKate Andrasko, said, “It keeps our school running and without support from these legislators, we wouldn’t be able to continue to make Montevallo better.”
“It allows our university to do things like freeze tuition,” SGA Vice President, Jacob Heath said, which is a sentiment Andrasko shared.
Secretary of UM’s SGA, Abbie Clarke, also noted that higher education funding is important to her because “it affects students, and I am a student. And I think that it is so important to be involved with the things that affect your peers.”
On what UM SGA representatives hoped to gain from higher ed day, Andrasko said, “We really wanted legislatures to get to know the SGA of Montevallo just because they are our representatives and we hope that they listen to our voices, as their opinions really do affect how we go to school.”
Heuton said, “I hoped the legislators would understand how many people are affected everyday by the decisions they make. Our voices need to be heard and I’m glad we were able to advocate for ourselves and our future.”
Ivey shared about her own positive experience at one of Alabama’s public universities, which was Auburn, and said, “I have no doubt that the personal and academic growth I experienced while there has served me well. … I understand the power of education, which is why I’ve always prioritized adequately funding our states institutions of higher education.”
After lunch and meeting with legislators, UM’s SGA also had the chance to sit in on a House of Representatives meeting and witnessed the House discussing a bill for education, House Bill 307. This bill will allow professional educator certificate’s to be issued to individuals who are completing other alternative teaching preparedness programs.
Heath said, “I wanted to see what they felt about different issues and how they view their jobs.”
Higher Ed Day exposed them to not only the men and women representing students of Montevallo in Alabama’s government but let them witness some of what these representatives do.
“I wanted to see what they felt about different issues and how they view their jobs,” Heath said.
Andrasko felt positively about the day, saying “We’re really thankful for the opportunity to come down and meet our representatives. They were such kind people and I think it’s an annual event that should continue to happen, as it is an important one.”