Advocates for Carolina march on Statehouse
Nearly 250 advocates for the University of South Carolina celebrated Carolina Day at the Statehouse Wednesday (March 24) by marching to the state Capitol and meeting with legislators to discuss the importance of higher education.
The contingent included alumni, faculty, staff and students, as well as representatives from all eight USC campuses, who stressed the message that a college-educated population means less unemployment, higher earnings, a larger tax base and a healthier workforce, among other benefits. The group met with each member of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In its seventh year, Carolina Day at the Statehouse is part of the Carolina Action Network (CAN), a volunteer advocacy effort organized by the university’s alumni association.
Some CAN participants had attended in previous years, while others, concerned about plummeting funding for higher education, joined in for the first time.
University President Harris Pastides thanked the advocates for their support and said that the decrease in funding from the state has been dramatic in the last two years.
“We now have $100 million dollars less that we had on July 1, 2008,” Pastides said. “Forty-six percent of the university appropriations will have evaporated in only two years.
“What we want them (legislators) to pledge to us is that, when the economic tide of this distressed economy begins to recede, we will have a conversation about adequate funding for the university that was chartered in 1801 as South Carolina College, then became the University of South Carolina for all the people, and today is the University for South Carolina. And our message is being heard.”
Amy Stone, president of the Carolina Alumni Association, said the message “is that we’re doing the very best we can to provide the quality programs that the university needs to provide even in tough economic times. We’ll continue to do that with the hopes that the legislators will remember us when the times get a little better economically."
First-time advocate and undergraduate Joe Wright said rising tuition was his motivation to participate.
“Our message today is that we have needs as students, and we need resources because if the legislators cut the university budget any more, that could mean a spike in tuition we have to pay, and some people may not be able to afford that,” said Wright, a sophomore from Clover. “We are the future of South Carolina, so they need to support us by putting their time and money into us.”
The House passed a resolution declaring March 24 as Carolina Day at the Statehouse, honoring the university for outstanding achievement and commitment to quality education and recognizing the economic impact the university and its alumni have on the state’s economy.
Carolina Day at the Statehouse is one of many advocacy initiatives organized by CAN. No meetings or membership fees are required, and individuals can give as little or as much time as they can. Membership dues in the Carolina Alumni Association make CAN possible. For more information about CAN, visit the Web site: www.MyCarolina.org/advocacy.