Higher Education Day offers students chance to lobby

University of North Alabama students will participate in Higher Education Day April 4, an annual lobbying event in Montgomery, Alabama at the capitol.

“Higher Education Day is an opportunity for students to remind state elected officials such as Gov. Kay Ivey and state representatives to prioritize our state universities,” said Tyler Thompson, UNA director of student engagement.

The goal of Higher Education Day is to host an event that reminds people of the importance of the universities. Further, to connect the students of the university community to the decision makers. Finally, the day will provide a setting where the combined voices of the university are able to communicate key messages, according to its website.

UNA will send 47 students to advocate on the university’s behalf. Students will comprise of members of the Student Government Association, SOAR, the Art Department and university Greek life.

Higher Education Day is an event for students and university representatives to remind state leaders of the importance of Alabama’s universities and the need to support policies that elevate state universities’ impact.

“As one of the most underfunded universities in the state, it gives students an opportunity to show that UNA deserves every penny that we can get,” said Ashton Critchfield, the Legal Affairs chair of Senate. “UNA has so much to offer and we deserve it.”

Students will leave at 6:45 a.m., travel to Montgomery and participate in a rally around the state’s capitol.

“I strongly believe that the University of North Alabama deserves its funding because it allows UNA to improve its facilities, as well as student life through the money it receives from the state, Critchfield said. “The funding that UNA deserves is a key component that allows students to receive one of the most financially affordable four-year universities in the state.”

Students will have lunch with Ivey and state legislators and will arrive back to campus at 5 p.m.

“I had no idea that my university provided me an opportunity to travel to Montgomery to advocate for money to better my life at this university,” said sophomore Mackenzie Alley. “I signed up as soon as I heard about it.”

Alabama universities are some of the largest contributors to the state’s economy bringing in a $20 billion impact on the state of Alabama, according to higheredpartners.org.

A college degree is a key to economic opportunity, conferring substantially higher earnings on those with credentials than those without. With median earnings of $56,700 or $2.3 million over a lifetime, bachelor’s degree holders earn 31% more than workers with an associate’s degree and 74% more than those with just a high school diploma.

More education equates to higher earnings, not just yearly, but over a lifetime. An adult’s working life, high school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million, while those with a bachelor’s degree will earn, $2.1 million; and people with a master’s degree will earn $2.5 million.

In 2016, Florence’s local economy yielded a total of $2,806,384 in taxes directly and indirectly related to the University of North Alabama, according to una.edu.

The university provides thousands of jobs where the total payroll for employees was $40,238,684. At the end of 2016, the university provided over 3,542 jobs, not including the hundreds of jobs it offers students.

Student Engagement Center worker Mark Perkins said having a job on campus really lifts the burden of having to pay his expenses.

“I’m able to attend school and work at the same place,” he said.

Higher Education Day offers the opportunity for students to advocate for funding to allow resources for campus jobs.