Students lobby for state support during day at Capitol

Capitol Day 2015

Students can speak with legislators at the University of Illinois Day at the Capitol. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

This year more than ever, it’s important for students to speak up in support of the University of Illinois, says Annie Li.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for a 31.5 percent reduction in state funding — nearly $209 million — for the university in his proposed budget. It’s critical for students to tell state legislators why the university’s funding is important, Li said.

“It speaks volumes and shows how much students care,” said Li, senior in health information management and president of the Student Alumni Ambassadors.

Students can speak to state legislators at the annual University of Illinois Day at the Capitol April 15, organized by Illinois Connection, an advocacy network for the university. Employees can also participate but must take a vacation day.

Another lobby day will be held May 7 for university alumni.

Students can learn more about the lobby day during an information session at 6 p.m. April 7 in 509 Student Center East.

“It’s an integral part of your UIC experience,” Li said. “You’re doing something not only for the students in your classes who are depending on grants to come to school but you’re also doing this for future students.”

About 140 students from all three university campuses have signed up so far, said Vanessa Faurie, vice president for corporate communications for the University of Illinois Alumni Association.

“Students have a real opportunity to talk about the UIC experience, what their aspirations are and how the actions in Springfield can potentially impact them,” Faurie said. “Students will find it a really invigorating experience — it’s very uplifting to know that you’re participating in civic life.”

UIC Undergraduate Student Government is paying for buses from campus to Springfield, leaving Student Center East at 8 a.m. and returning about 7 p.m., Li said.

Students will be divided into groups to talk with their local representatives. Those who live out of state can speak with representatives from UIC’s district.

Activities include a lunchtime briefing on key messages, afternoon visits with state legislators and a reception.

“What’s significant this year is that there’s an effort to really make some tough decisions,” Faurie said. “Our perspective has been that now is the time to invest in the university, which is an economic driver and adds to the population of the state’s college-educated workforce.”

Legislators listen to what students have to say, said Li, who will participate in her third lobby day this year.

“They know we live and vote in their districts so they are willing to hear us and knowing that we take time in our day to actually do this shows how much we care about the university.”

Students who want to get involved but can’t attend lobby day can visit the Illinois Connection website to contact local legislators.

“I really hope that students take advantage of this opportunity to show their support,” Li said.

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