UNA students ready for Higher Education Day in Montgomery

UNA student Austin Park marches with a sign during the 2014 Higher Education Day rally in Montgomery. Forty-five UNA students attended the event to demand greater funding for Alabama’s public universities.

Money matters when it comes to running a university, and UNA has money on its mind.

Board members, student legislature and students plan to make the trek south to Montgomery for Higher Education Day April 9.

“Higher Education Day is a time set aside where people in higher education can go make plans to meet with legislators and see the capital,” said President Pro-Tempore of the board of trustees Marty Abroms. “It’s a show of support in terms of trying to bring home the need for appropriate funding for higher education, especially for UNA.”

The event also allows students and campus leaders from universities across Alabama to rally on the steps of the state capital in demand of greater funding. Last year, the crowd requested higher education institutions receive one-third of the state education budget, leaving K-12 schools two-thirds. Their requests were not granted.

Junior Danielle Stokes said she believes it is important for the government to support UNA.

“It’s important that we have state funding so that we can keep improving our facilities and programs,” Stokes said. “If we don’t keep up, people might stop coming to UNA because of poor facilities or dated technology and programs.”

Abroms said he believes it is important for students and leaders from UNA to attend Higher Education Day.

“Many years ago, state appropriation was more than 50 percent of college budgets,” he said. “Things have changed over the years to where we consider ourselves a state-supported institution. State funding now comprises 30 to 35 percent of budget needs.”

Sophomore Alec Prince, chairman of SGA Senate’s Legislature Affairs Committee, said UNA “gets the short end of the stick” in terms of state funding.

“We are here, we matter and we can be successful,” Prince said. “Higher Education Day is all about letting our voices be heard in Montgomery.”

The Higher Education Day kick-off event will be held at the Memorial Amphitheater April 7. Pizza, chips and drinks will be provided for students.

Prince said he attended Higher Education Day last year as a member of Freshman Forum and will attend this year as well.

He said SGA’s goal is to have 90 students go to Montgomery as opposed to last year’s attendance of 45 .

Abroms said the board will stress to legislators the need for state dollars to continue UNA’s efforts.

“The more funding we can get, the lower tuition can be or at least we can avoid raising it,” Abroms said.

“We are all about keeping tuition low,” he said. “Prior tuition increases are not sustainable.”

In Gov. Robert Bentley’s proposed budget for the upcoming year, he has allocated a $1 million earmark for the future nursing building and a $800,000 earmark for the science and technology building, Abroms said.

These earmarks are funds the government sets aside for a certain project or purpose, he said.

“It’s one thing to request. It’s another to receive,” Abroms said. “It’s up to legislature to approve governor’s proposed budget.”

Abroms said it is important the legislature approves these earmarks so UNA can continue it’s campus beautification projects.

“We have a great nursing program, but we have to turn down nursing applicants because we don’t have a large enough building to house what we need for nursing,” Abroms said. “It’s important we expand nursing program. Alabamians need good healthcare.”