Higher Ed Day Rally starts next month

Katy Turnbull

In March, UA students, faculty, staff and alumni will join their peers from Alabama’s 12 other four-year public universities to advocate legislative support for higher education at the Higher Ed Day Rally.

Gordon Stone, executive director of the Higher Education Partnership, said supporters of Alabama colleges will gather on the steps of the Alabama State House in Montgomery for the March 4 rally to remind legislators that their decisions on university funding impact the lives of thousands of Alabamians.

Political leaders, student government association leaders and the lieutenant governor will speak, Stone said.

“Our goal is to remind the Legislature that universities provide a great return on the investment of public dollars,” Stone said. “We want to remind them that universities are a huge part of the state’s economy and that we are training the leaders of tomorrow, and we need adequate public funding to fulfill those responsibilities.”

The Higher Education Partnership, an advocacy group formed by Alabama’s 13 public universities and the host of the rally, will also be hosting the Alumni Leaders’ Advocacy Banquet the day before the rally.

The goal of the banquet is to inform alumni leaders representing the Higher Education Partnership on the state legislative environment facing Alabama public universities in their advocacy efforts, explore ways to be more effective advocates and communicate to legislators the importance of fair funding in K-12 and higher education, said Clif Davis, manager of member services for UA Alumni Affairs.

“The funding of education is directly influenced by the perception of educational value and fueled through funding resources governed by the strength of the economy,” Davis said. “Given the economy is showing stagnant or only slight gains in recovery, and the value of all education, never before have the stakes been so high for higher education to be treated fairly in the budget process.”

The banquet will also feature a panel of legislators, Senators Vivian Davis Figures and Del Marsh who will answer questions about resolving the dwindling funds of the Prepaid Affordable College Tuition, or PACT, program and effective school funding while advising alumni on the best ways to communicate their ideas to legislators, Davis said.

Marsh said the panel at the banquet would help examine legislative initiatives and explore the possible positive or negative effects that such could have on universities and see both sides of the constant struggle to provide fair and adequate distribution of state education funding between higher education and K-12 schools.

“It will be an opportunity to share information and educate each other on budget issues,” Marsh said.

The Higher Ed Day Rally will begin at 11 a.m. on March 4. Lunch tickets for the event can be downloaded for free at www.higheredpartners.org up to a week before the event.