Students rally for higher education

Students of UNA ran through the rain at 6:30 a.m. Feb. 22 to make the four-hour drive to Montgomery to petition for better funding in higher education.

Every year at Higher Education Day, students from various public state universities come together at the capitol building. This year Gov. Kay Ivey spoke with the students, as well as many Alabama State Senators and House of Representatives. Students had the chance to talk with them, ask questions and take pictures.

Upon arrival, the sounds of the Alabama State University marching band and cheers and chants of other schools met students. Signs filled the air reading, “No funding, no future.”

Gordon Stone, executive director of the Higher Education Partnership, rallied with the students.

“It’s up to you all to make sure this isn’t just a walk around the block,” Stone said.

UNA brought 26 students this year, many of which attended in the past. Junior Nikki Matthews is one of the students that has attended before, and she said she was excited for another chance to march.

“I just really want our voices to be heard this time,” Matthews said.

Matthews said she got her wish as Ivey spoke to the students during lunch saying each institution will receive an increase in funds this year. She did not say the amount of increase.

Sophomore Holly Dunbar led this year’s trip to Higher Ed Day.

“I wanted to take on Higher Ed day because I’ve seen the positive impact higher education has on people,” Dunbar said. “I have many friends and family members whose lives were changed by the opportunity to go to college. The fact is these opportunities don’t come unless the education is affordable.”

Dunbar said she especially wanted to advocate for more funding for UNA.

“UNA receives significantly less money per student than any other public institution in Alabama,” Dunbar said. “I want to see that change because this university has so much to offer.”

Alabama’s funding for higher education is 11th out of 16 in the Southeastern states. This causes the state to be more dependent on tuition and fees. Colleges and universities in Alabama currently receive 1/3 of funding from the state education budget.