Oklahoma college students gathered Tuesday at the state capitol to show their legislature how much they value higher education.
Each year, college students, faculty and administrators come from all over the state to visit with their representatives and senators.
This year, students stressed the importance of the budget cuts on higher education and guns on campus.
Angelica Bryant, a student at Oklahoma City Community College student, said she hopes she can make a difference at Higher Education Day by persuading her legislature to no longer cut funding to higher education.
Many students from several colleges had the same main issue to talk about: budget cuts.
“In interviews we’ve done, they say they can write the check, but they can’t allocate where those funds go. So, there are not enough people fighting for the right to allocate these funds; therefore it remains not as important,” he said.
Oklahoma has reached record high budget cuts to higher education. State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said, “The budget cuts that happened to higher education were much harsher than any other agency last year.”
The budget for FY 2017 is $67 million dollars less than the FY 2016.
“Too many legislators, when they think of higher ed, they think of OU expanding their football stadium,” Echols said. “They need to understand that higher education is not just the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.”
State Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, said he didn’t want to increase higher ed funding, despite his support for community colleges.
“We’ve got these two systems that unfortunately fall under the same budget, and if we cut higher ed the junior colleges and the community colleges get cut as well, when really the ones that need to be cut are the ones that are doing the wasting,” Shortey said.
“I think the cuts are necessary to certain schools, and I think they are hurting a lot of other good schools that can’t afford the cuts.” Shortey said. “My idea is to separate the two systems. We need all the junior colleges and regionals to be on an entirely different separate system and funding stream.”
Shortey said that he would not vote to increase funding to higher education until he knows the money is going to be spent properly.
Greyson Wolf, a Rose State student, said college students need the funding help. “People need to understand, especially the representatives that are not for higher education, that a lot of us are working for our education or paying for it on our own without any help at all.”
“We don’t want to come in and just say support higher ed, and have people kind of brush us off like we are whiny college students that want free stuff,” Wolf said. “That is the exact opposite of what we are. We are hard-working college kids that are trying to get our education and become stronger and better citizens.”