Day at the Capitol

By Gus Bode

Students from Illinois public universities lobby in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Hundreds of students from public universities across the state gathered Wednesday at the capitol for Lobby Day to press state legislators to support bills for higher education.

Although each university had its own agenda, everyone had one item in common – the bill that would give all public institutions a 1 percent increase in their budgets.

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State universities have not received an increase in their budgets in four years.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, is a co-signer on the bill. He said while the small amount will not offset 3 percent cost-of-living increases, this money will be a start and open a window for more funding in the future.

“Any amount of money we can get will reverse that trend that doesn’t have to shift toward tuition increases,” Bost said.

SIUC brought more than 15 students to support the increase and to support two separate bills that would help the University.

Representatives from the University met with legislators to push a house bill that would increase the financial aid grant program by $22 million and a senate bill that would give SIUC $3.5 million for its Transportation Education Center.

Tequia Hicks, Undergraduate Student Government president, said lobbying is essential so SIUC doesn’t have to raise tuition every year to cover expenses.

“We are committed to finding an alternative than the students’ pockets,” Hicks said.

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SIU-Edwardsville brought more than 20 students to lobby for its new science building.

Cindy Holesko, vice president of SIUE’s Student Government, said it shows the Legislature how desperate state universities are for money from the state.

She also said SIUE is in dire need of a science building and speaking only to the university’s administration was not good enough.

“I figured if we needed to get the science building renovated, we needed to come to Springfield,” Holesko said.

Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago, chairman of the higher education committee, said because graduates from college make more money and pay more taxes, funding higher education is essential.

“Higher education is truly a strong investment,” Maloney said.

During a rally at the Illinois State Museum, Joe White, president of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said education has never been more important than today because of the current state of Illinois and the job market.

“It’s important that we give all people an opportunity for a higher education,” White said.

Although state money is tight, Senate President Emil Jones said he is in full support of higher education and plans to try and pass resolutions to allocate more money to universities.

“We have got to actively fund higher education,” Jones said.

After the rally, the student lobbyists moved from the museum to the capitol to talk with their respective representatives to lobby for each school’s needs.

USG senator TyJuan Cratic said talking to representatives and senators is the strongest way to get money from the state.

“Talking directly with lawmakers is the best direct link from students to the Legislature,” Cratic said. “We must understand the process in order for us to be effective in lobbying.”

This is the first time SIUC has lobbied this semester, but Eastern Illinois University travels regularly to Springfield, said Adam Howell, chairman for Eastern’s Student Actions Team.

Howell said the Student Action Team is a lobbying group that travels to Springfield two to three times a semester to push for legislation for the EIU.

“It’s a very effective political opportunity to raise money for our school,” Howell said.

Former USG Vice President Nate Brown said politicians are busy and if students can bring explanations to the table instead of just demanding money, legislators will be more attentive to what is being said.

“Any time we can offer solutions to politicians, they will be more apt to hear what we have to say,” Brown said.

Reporter Matthew McConkey can be reached at [email protected]

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