Student Action Team lobbies for higher education

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

The Student Action Team went to Springfield Tuesday to talk to senators about higher education funding.

About 250 students from all of the different Illinois state public universities were there as well.

Shirmeen Ahmad, the student body president, said they came up with different slogans, such as “Cuts mean us,” that they chanted outside the Capitol building before lobbying the General Assembly.

Ahmad was able to meet Illinois State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, who Ahmad said was supportive.

“She told us, ‘you have to go push the governor,’” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said a lot of the students got responses like that.

“Most of the senators are on our side, so we just have to find a way to really crack down on those who aren’t,” Ahmad said. “We need to step up and make sure the state doesn’t take us over.”

Ahmad said this was a group who cared about their education.

“It’s not an EIU thing. It’s a statewide thing,” Ahmad said. “Everyone needs to take initiative.”

Many of the universities took part in a petition urging state senators to make higher education a priority.

Ahmad sent the petition to students by email Tuesday morning.

“Other schools were doing it, too, so we figured why not add our names to it to and make it bigger,” Ahmad said. “Sometimes, even something small like this, just showing how many people are signing makes a difference.”

A lot of what the students talked to the senators about was the budget and financial aid.

“So many people go to these universities and by not supporting us, you’re hurting these many students,” Ahmad said.

They told senators how important it was that the budget was passed now.

“You’re dwindling. It’s taking too long,” Ahmad said. “You need to figure out how to pass the budget before schools start running out of money.”

Catie Witt, the executive vice president, led the Student Action Team, which was a group of 17 students, with three of those students being graduate students.

“We usually go to Springfield once a semester, but this semester was really important because of the budget being stagnant,” Witt said.

Witt said it was different for the team to meet with different universities.

“This was a great experience because it isn’t just EIU who is suffering. It is students across the state,” Witt said.

The team was originally supposed to go to Springfield in November, but pushed up the date to meet with other universities because of the urgent budget situation.

The students met at 6:30 a.m. to organize and left Charleston around 7 a.m., coming back from Springfield at 5 p.m.

Witt was able to speak to State Senator Andy Manar.

Manar said he has seen students who are trying to “break the cycle of poverty,” but without the MAP Grant they cannot afford to attend higher education.

Ahmad said having the Student Action Team go to Springfield was a nice step, but there is still more work to do.

“Obviously the budget’s not done yet,” Ahmad said. “There’s still so much more that we can do.”

Ahmad said she would love to see students really getting into making a difference in the budget issue.

“As hard as we work for our classes and getting good grades, this is something we should also work for, because all our hard work could be for nothing,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad said to use social media and other venues to shed light on the issue.

“Contacting our representatives and senators, I would like parents to get more involved in this,” Ahmad said. “We’re not the only area affected with higher education.”

Ahmad said every voice counts.

“Call your governor’s office, call your senator’s office. Let them know you’re adamant about this. You’re serious,” Ahmad said.

While it is a busy time in the semester, Ahmad said it is important to do something about this before it is too late.

 

Analicia Haynes contributed to the article.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]