By Steffanie Atkins
Capital News Service
VCU students urged state legislators Wednesday to invest in higher education during Rams Day on the Hill, an annual lobbying event at Capitol Square.
The students – members of the campus chapter of Virginia 21, an advocacy group for college students and young adults – expressed concerns about Gov. Bob McDonnell’s proposed budget adjustments for the state’s colleges and universities.
Jerusalem Solomon, chair of VCU’s Virginia 21 chapter, said McDonnell’s budget proposal would provide only $80 more per student than the current budget. Solomon is concerned about what could happen to the quality of higher education with those constraints.
“If we lose the great professors that we have or the awesome opportunities that we have – our technology, our buildings, our library – it’s going to downgrade the quality of our education that we’re getting, and soon our degrees won’t mean as much,” Solomon said.
Kaitlyn Howard, an intern with Virginia 21 and a political science major at VCU, agreed. She said she is also concerned about class sizes and wants to make sure schools get additional funding.
“We want to make sure the quality of education doesn’t get lost in the budget fight,” Howard said.
McDonnell’s budget proposals would cap tuition. Students fear that with a tuition cap, and with only a small increase in state funding, the quality of education will decline at public colleges and universities.
Rams Day on the Hill coincided with a Rally Day held by Virginia 21, during which the statewide group also lobbied on issues important to college students.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling showed his support for the students attending the events. He applauded their efforts in becoming involved in the legislative process and urged them to stay involved as they get older.
“I don’t care whether it’s the Republican extreme or the Democrat extreme; most people don’t live on the extremes. The live in the mainstream, and we focus on the mainstream,” Bolling said. “I’m counting on folks like you to make sure Virginia stays in the mainstream.”
The lieutenant governor posed for a photograph with nearly 100 advocates with Virginia 21.