Thursday, April 07, 2011

U of I Day at the Capitol sends funding message to lawmakers

Almost 200 University of Illinois alumni and students spent the day lobbying lawmakers, including Governor Pat Quinn, for critical state funding during University of Illinois Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, April 6.

While lawmakers passed a budget with substantial funding for higher education last year, the university still has not received much of the cash.

“They still haven’t paid us almost $500 million,” said Amy Eichhorst, director of Illinois Connection. “We need that money in order to run the university and for next year we’re asking them not to cut the budget.”

Alumni and students got a surprise when Governor Quinn showed up for their group photo on the steps of the Illinois State capitol.

“We believe in schools and education and higher education and we thank you for your commitment to the university,” Quinn told the crowd. “(The university) is really a special place, and jobs follow brainpower that’s what we believe in.”

UIS student Tia Mahr was surprised to hear from the governor, but came to lobby day ready to talk to lawmakers and hear their opinions on the future of the university.

“I decided to come out, make a difference, make a change,” said Mahr, a senior Communication major.

Other students, such as UIUC junior Political Science and Business major Meghan Schaffer hope the unified message from alumni and students makes a difference. Participants were grouped together based on their home legislative districts in an effort to speak with the lawmakers they helped to elect.

“I think it’s really essential to make sure they understand the student voice, that people need to really come here to show a presence of students, alumni, working together for this important cause,” said Schaffer.

Reductions in the number of state MAP Grants awarded have made it harder for UIC Finance major Regina Stevenson to make ends meet.

“I’m here to make a difference. I come from a low income area, so money is very important to stay in school,” said Stevenson, a junior.

Illinois Connection, part of the University of Illinois Alumni Association, organized the lobby day. The group has over 8,000 members in 49 states, which are fighting for higher education funding.

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