Funding for Our Future: Students Rally for Higher Ed Day

By Stephanie Huynh | Contributor |

Photo credit: uofsouthalabama on Instagram, taken by Heather Sprinkle

The 2021-2022 education budget was the largest in Alabama’s history at $7.7 billion, with $2 billion of it sent towards higher education. This sparks a big question: how will the budget change in the coming years? University students across the state attended the annual Higher Education Day rally on Feb. 24 in Montgomery to support funding for higher education.

Higher Education Day is celebrated annually by the Higher Education Partnership of Alabama, an organization that’s dedicated to advocating the importance of higher education in the state. 

Members of the South Alabama community joined other schools in a small parade march around a few government buildings in Montgomery. Many city and state employees stood outside of their offices to wave at students as they passed by, and some waved from their office windows. The parade ended outside of the Capitol building and the State House, where each school’s mascot made an appearance for an energetic roll call.

Brief speeches from state leaders took place during lunch on the lawn. They aimed to reassure students and other university representatives that higher education is and will continue to be a priority in Alabama. 

“You all are future leaders of our state,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “Sitting out here among you is a governor one day, and I’m proud of that.”

The rally was over after lunch, but South students had a little over an hour to spare before they had to get back onto the charter bus to return to Mobile. They were able to go to the Civil Rights Museum, mingle with Higher Education representatives on the capitol lawn or venture into the State House. 

The majority of students chose to go into the State House. Here, they watched a few bills be voted on in the House of Representatives. They received a warm welcome from the House, after which they were prompted to stand and wave to the legislators who stood below them. Before leaving the building to board the bus home, students were treated to the chance to walk out onto the Senate floor.

Laura Panche Toro, a third-year political science student at South, said that she was most looking forward to seeing how legislators would go about creating and passing bills to get universities the funding they need to thrive. 

“It was really cool to see the whole process of voting in Montgomery, especially with all the policies and bills that they have in place that could benefit South,” said Toro.

On Jan. 12 of this year, Governor Ivey released her education budget proposal to the legislature. In it, she proposed that over $100 million be added to the funding for higher education across the state’s 14 four-year, public universities. For South Alabama in particular, her numbers indicate willingness to set aside an additional $11 million compared to last year’s budget. As revisions are made to the higher education budget, they will be posted to Budget Watch.