The Daily Tar Heel

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Friday January 21st

N.C. student government leaders visit N.C. General Assembly

ASG Day at the N.C. General Assembly. 
Left to Right:
Brandt Allen (Representative from WCU), Senator Kathy Harrington, (ginger) Jared Hopkins (Representative from WCU), Thomas Grimes (Representative from WCU)
Buy Photos ASG Day at the N.C. General Assembly. Left to Right: Brandt Allen (Representative from WCU), Senator Kathy Harrington, (ginger) Jared Hopkins (Representative from WCU), Thomas Grimes (Representative from WCU)

RALEIGH — As drastic budget cuts loom, student government leaders from across the state beset the N.C. General Assembly Wednesday to plead for minimal cuts to the UNC -system schools.

At its annual Students Day at the Capital, the UNC Association of Student Governments, a collection of delegates from all 17 UNC-system schools, discussed the system’s funding with lawmakers as they begin to search for areas to cut.

A total of 49 students lobbied for ASG’s three legislative priorities: maintaining funding for financial aid, keeping tuition revenues on campus and requesting funding for enrollment growth.

The association is funded by an annual $1 fee from every student in the system. Funds help pay for delegates’ hotel and travel costs.

Students met with every member of the N.C. Senate’s education committee and appropriations sub-committee, including the Democratic leader Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe.

They also met with many of the corresponding committee members in the N.C. House.

“Everyone’s been very receptive and some have been very realistic in saying there’s no money for increased education funding,” said Jared Hopkins, vice president of student government at Western Carolina University.

“We just tried to emphasize the importance of higher education and that there’s a direct relationship between education funding and unemployment in North Carolina.”

The students’ lobbying efforts come in the wake of UNC-system President Thomas Ross’s announcement that schools could see up to a 15 percent cut, or a $405 million reduction in funding.

Though the students’ discussions with legislators might not result in more funding, that’s not necessarily the goal of the Students Day at Congress event, said Arjay Quizon, student body president of UNC-Pembroke.

“We could write letters to the legislators about our priorities if that was the most important part of today,” Quizon said.

Showing up in person also puts faces to the issue of university funding, said Deanna Santoro, the associate vice president of legislative public affairs for ASG.

“What’s important about today is being able to make those personal connections,” Santoro said.

“Legislators often forget what it means to be a student and when they sit down and talk with us, it sometimes enlightens them and makes them re-prioritize what’s important.”

The financial impact of the day remains to be seen, but at the least legislators were reminded of what’s important to students in this state, said ASG President Atul Bhula.

“We made the case that education in general is what North Carolina prides itself on, that’s what’s important,” he said.

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