Students, alumni push for higher ed funding

Student Lobby Day

Student Lobby Day (Photo: Darrell Hoemann)

About 250 University of Illinois students, alumni, leaders and advocates will share their personal stories with state legislators Feb. 28 during the annual University of Illinois Day at the Capitol, organized by Illinois Connection, an advocacy network for the university.

They will talk about how higher education has impacted their lives and the importance of state support for the university.

UIC participants will head to the State Capitol in buses provided by UIC Undergraduate Student Government, then spend the afternoon speaking directly to legislators before participating in a higher education rally.

“Alumni and students can share their story about how the University of Illinois is making or has made a difference in their life and how important higher education is,” said Marissa Brewer, assistant vice president of alumni advocacy at the University of Illinois Alumni Alliance.

UIC student Marvin Slaughter will speak during the rally.

“Being able to go to the Capitol and tell our state legislators that this is an actual legitimate problem that needs a legitimate solution, that is just essential,” said Slaughter, a junior in political science and economics, and president of the UIC Student Advocacy Coalition.

Slaughter is participating in his third University of Illinois Day at the Capitol this year.

“Legislators hear a lot of information from a lot of sources but there’s nothing more important that having a personal story and being able to put a face to the actual story,” he said. “We are the future of the state, of the country. We can say, ‘I am your future. Please invest in me.’”

Participants will ask members of the Illinois General Assembly to provide a fiscal year 2019 state appropriation for the university of $681 million — a 5 percent increase from fiscal year 2015. They will also request a stable funding system, more financial aid for students, and additional funding to hire new faculty members and upgrade facilities.

In recent years, students and alumni have participated in separate lobby days in Springfield, Brewer said, but the combined event will make the experience more impactful for participants.

“Students will have the opportunity to meet some really engaged and amazing alumni from each of our universities, who have taken time out of their busy schedules to lobby for their alma mater, which is really cool to have our students see that family that they are going to graduate into,” Brewer said.

“And it’s great for our alumni — they love talking to current students and learning about the university.”

Students, alumni and other advocates who want to get involved but could not attend lobby day can visit the Illinois Connection website to contact local legislators.

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