Troy University had the highest representation of students at the annual Higher Education Day rally held in Montgomery on Thursday, Feb. 25.
Students from 14 public colleges and universities in Alabama gathered to support an increase in state funding for higher education.
The purpose of Higher Education Day is for students to rally together to advocate for one-third of the Educational Trust Fund from Alabama’s budget to be allocated for higher education.
According to Gordon Stone, mayor of Pike Road and director of the Higher Education Partnership, 1995 was the last time higher education received one-third of the Educational Trust Fund.
“We believe in Pre-K through Ph.D.,” Stone said. “When you invest in higher education, you invest in our future.”
Attendees participated in a parade march through downtown Montgomery, which ended at the State House steps. There, Stone facilitated the rally.
Some of the speakers for the event included Gov. Robert Bentley, University of Montevallo president John Stewart and Troy’s Student Government Association president Heath Barton.
Bentley expressed the need for more Alabamians to graduate from higher education institutions to continue providing jobs and opportunities within the state.
Barton, a senior global business major from Opp and chairman of the Alabama University Student Presidents Council, urged students to become more proactive in the fight for increased academic funding.
“Let us not sit back and simply observe the actions of our elected officials and state leaders,” he said. “Let us instead become fully engaged in the governing process and in funding all of education adequately — Pre-K through Ph.D.
“Let us toss aside our differences and rivalries and let our attendance here today stand as a declaration of our desperation for focus on higher education.”
Barton said that he was honored to have the chance to represent the university across the state through the event.
“I have never been more proud to be a Troy Trojan,” he said.
Ansley Markwell, a senior human services major from Montgomery and coordinator for STARS—Student Teams Advocating Realistic Solutions—said that based on the transportation that was available, Troy met its Higher Education Day attendance goal.
“Our original goal in August was to bring 350 students,” Markwell said. “However, we had a total of 205 students, which fulfilled the amount of transportation space we had available. We had the highest turnout Troy has ever had.”
As STARS coordinator, Markwell was responsible for organizing her committee, attending semester meetings with Higher Education Day partnership representatives and recruiting students to attend Higher Education Day.
“Many strategies were discussed, and the majority of our planning was recruiting,” Markwell said.
Annie Wilkerson, a sophomore athletic training major from New Hope, said she had a great experience attending.
“I absolutely loved the atmosphere of Higher Ed Day, and everyone was so enthusiastic about rallying to receive more funds for education,” Wilkerson said.
“Alabama does not provide full tuition to students who make A’s or B’s in high school, while other states do. Providing more scholarships and funding to students pursing higher education would definitely help.”