By Mehmet Barzev
A large collective of students, faculty and alumni from the 14 state-owned universities across Pennsylvania descended on Harrisburg for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education or PASSHE’s annual Advocacy Day on Feb. 22.
The group, including students from East Stroudsburg University, visited all 253 state legislators to share personal stories of success, and to encourage increased investment in the universities.
“The PASSHE universities are preparing the next generation of Pennsylvania leaders in business, education, health, the arts and beyond,” said Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney.
The advocacy event included appearances before both the House and Senate.
During the appearances with the legislators Shippensburg University President Laurie A. Carter, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association President Brian Swatt joined Whitney on the House and Senate floor. The three discussed PASSHE’s annual appropriations request.
“The education and opportunities we receive at a State System University are unique and invaluable,” said Swatt. “I can say for certain that the State System, and specifically IUP, have prepared me for my future; they have prepared me to succeed.”
ESU Student Senate President Chelsi Roberts-Willams also attended the Advocacy Day activities.
“Advocacy Day is usually done by the student executives from the universities,” Roberts-Williams said. “This year the Chancellor changed the event so all of the schools were there. [Chancellor Whitney] wanted all the schools there at the same time to meet the representatives.”
Roberts-Williams, and the rest of the students in attendance were issued packets of information to distribute, and were given representatives to visit.
While none of the students were able to meet any of the delegates, they were able to distribute the literature, and pass along the intent of the important visit.
“It’s important to keep them aware that education is important,” Roberts-Williams said. “We need the state to help our students and help our future students.”
When asked if she be thought the event was successful Roberts-Williams said, “I hope so. We need to lobby and get the message out, and hopefully get more funding.”
The PASSHE is seeking a 2018-19 state appropriation of $526.2 million, and increase of $73 million over the current year’s funding level.
The increased funding is needed primarily to meet increases in both employee salaries and benefits that are part of various labor agreements and higher pension contributions mandated by the state.
The PASSHE’s annual appropriation is included as part of the state budget. Gov. Wolf has recommended a $15 million increase for next year. The new budget requires approval by June 30, to take effect July 1.
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