MONTGOMERY—Declining state funding of higher education not only puts a greater burden on students but also hinders Alabama's potential for economic growth, Troy University Student Government Association President Darreyel Laster told a gathering of proponents of the state's universities on Thursday.
Speaking during the annual Higher Education Day Rally on the steps of the Alabama Statehouse, Laster said the lack of adequate state funding leads to higher tuition rates.
"Higher tuition rates do not mean increased revenue to support programs, research or initiatives. It is just money that has gone to supplement the declining funds that our universities have lost from the state," said Laster, a senior political science major and leadership minor from Pensacola. "This causes two problems. First, our institutions don't have enough funds to expand programs to attract and serve new students. Second, fewer students are graduating or are prolonging graduation because they don't have money to pay the rising costs of tuition."
During Thursday's rally, higher education advocates called for a more equitable division of funds from the state's Education Trust Fund.
"We aren't asking for full funding. We aren't even asking for half funding. We are asking that one-third of the Education Trust Fund be designated for higher educational opportunities within this state," Laster said. "Education is important to all of us, but education does not stop at the 12th grade. We have 13 wonderful public colleges and universities that offer great programs, but they can be stronger than ever with the support of our state Legislature."
About 300 students, faculty and staff from Troy University took part in the annual rally, which is sponsored by the Higher Education Partnership of Alabama. Participants also heard comments from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey and several members of the state Legislature.