44 students visit state Capitol to lobby for higher-education funding
A group of 44 OU students lobbied to legislators for increased higher-education funding for the state’s academic institutions Tuesday at the state Capitol.
The effort was part of Higher Education Day, which brought together student delegates from colleges and universities around the state.
The day’s activities were intended to remind state legislators of the importance of higher-education funding, political science sophomore Akash Patel said.
“It’s important that we keep getting the money we are getting and hopefully more,” Patel said.
While at the Capitol, OU’s student delegates performed “drop-ins,” which entailed stopping by legislators’ offices with an informational packet and a pitch, Higher Education Day coordinator Steve Sichterman said.
“We have people all on every floor of the capital,” Sichterman said. “They’re dropping by every office to explain just how important OU’s funding is.”
The packets provided information, but the office visits were intended to tie a face and a story to the numbers for legislators, Patel said.
“We weren’t given a script to use for the representatives,” Patel said. “It’s important to be professional and personal with each one of them.”
The principle issue addressed with legislators was a return on investments for the entire state for every dollar of funding provided to OU, Sichterman said.
Many of the delegates discussed the value of OU’s intellectual property and the impact the university’s academic and charitable institutions have had, UOSA President Hannah Morris said.
Despite student delegates’ efforts, the issue of increasing higher-education funding was not met with unanimous support at the Capitol, Rep. Charles Key, R-Oklahoma City, said
“No I wouldn’t vote for it,” Key said. “I would vote against any more appropriations. I won’t incur any more of a burden towards people paying tuition or particularly the tax payers who are going to be expending more dollars towards the higher education system.”
Others disagreed with Key and would welcome an opportunity to increase state allocations to colleges and universities, House Minority Leader Scott Inman said.
“I think if we’re going to invest in the state, invest in the future of Oklahoma, improve the business environment and overall quality of life, we have got to make sure we invest in higher education because it is a key component of all of those factors,” Inman said. “I would vote for higher appropriations for the higher education system, without a doubt.”