Students head to Springfield to advocate for university

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Rep. Al Riley, right, talks with students at University of Illinois Day at the Capitol in 2011. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

Students from UIC, Urbana-Champaign and UIS will converge in Springfield Wednesday to talk with legislators in support of the university at the fifth annual University of Illinois Student Day at the Capitol.

Free bus transportation and meals are provided for the all-day trip, which is also open to faculty and staff. Register by 5 p.m. today.

At the event, sponsored by the University of Illinois Alumni Association’s  Illinois Connection, students will talk one-on-one with their state legislators, seeking continuous funding for the University of Illinois.

“This gives us the opportunity to go there and actually have a presence and students get to talk about what is important to them — sometimes that really makes a difference,” said Annie Li, junior in health information management and the Honors College.

Current budget recommendations from the Illinois Higher Board of Education for 2015 suggest the university may face cuts in state funding from 12 percent to 20 percent, Li said.

Students will also stress the importance of funding for the Illinois State Monetary Assistance Program (MAP) Grants, need-based financial aid for low-income undergraduates.  More than 12,000 students in Illinois received MAP grants this year.

“Our lobbying has been effective because last year we didn’t get cut and got what we asked for,” said Li, president of Student Alumni Ambassadors.

“Our university is a state institution, so it relies on this funding. It is an opportunity for you to go and make that difference.”

Participants registered for the trip can meet for free donuts at 7 a.m. Wednesday in the Pier Room, Student Center East, then board the bus outside SCE at 7:30 a.m. They will arrive in Springfield for an 11:30 a.m. lunch briefing and 1:15 p.m. group photo outside the Capitol, then talk with legislators until heading home at 4 p.m.

UIC students who sign up for the trip will be entered in a raffle, sponsored by Undergraduate Student Government, with a chance to win iPads, hoodies and T-shirts.

A lobbying trip to Springfield for alumni, faculty and staff and other U of I advocates will be held May 14.