Annually, the Utah system of higher education sponsors an event called College or University Day, and students from
every institution of higher education in the state are invited up to the Capitol building to rally support for their schools from Utah lawmakers. The event was held on March 1.
This year, more than 120 students attended and spoke to their individual representatives about the issues that directly affect their communities and schools. Several members of the Weber State University Student Association were present and had the opportunity to speak to members of the Utah Legislature about SCR 5, a bill that supports Gov. Gary Herbert’s goal of 66 percent of the population obtaining some form of higher education by 2020.
“We are really encouraging our students to be proactive in speaking with the legislatures and sharing their personal experiences with them about what it’s like to be a student at Weber State or Salt Lake Community College,” said Aaron Starks, SLCC’s student body president and president of the Utah Student Association.
The goal for these students, according to Starks, is to leave a lasting impression on the members of legislature so that bills favoring higher education will be passed.
“Unfortunately, changes always take a long time,” Starks said. “But the progress that will come from is that Utah State Legislature will be unanimous is their decision saying that ‘you know what, we agree and we support that education is the pathway for economic development and prosperity for 2020.’”
Starks said it would be ideal if students could be up at Capitol Hill and meet with lawmakers every day of the legislative session, but students weren’t the only citizens in Salt Lake City rallying around education.
According to Starks, Prosperity 2020, the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce and other political entities are hopping on board because they understand the key to economic development lies in education.
Chase Saxton, one of the activities chairmen in WSUSA, said he and the other members of WSUSA came to the Capitol to represent the student body and try to influence representatives to vote in favor of the new science building.
“We just want overall funding to make sure that Weber State can accomplish its goals and initiatives,” Saxton said, “basically just show concern. It’s a day that they are talking about the budgets that we are going to push for.”
Student body president Andrew Gardiner sported a purple tie with a WSU pin and a “higher ed” pin to the Capitol. He said there were several reasons why coming up to the Capitol was important for WSU students.
“We’re lobbying for a few different things,” Gardiner said. “Our No. 1 priority is the science building. We want to make sure that we get $5 million in design funding so that the students can at least anticipate a building coming in the following year. That’s a $60.9 million building, and so we’re hoping to lobby the Utah legislatures and tell them how important of a priority it is for Weber.”
According to Abelardo Saucedo, the clubs and organizations vice president, the rate of enrollment is increasing, but WSU continues to get the same amount of money for funding from the state.
“We have to make sure that they know that its important to us,” Saucedo said. “We have to have that money for helping our students on campus. Tuition keeps going up and our resources are limited, from teachers to technology to all of those things, so we have to be able to keep up, and the only way we can do that is by getting funding from the state.”