Students from Shippensburg University and the other 13 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities traveled to the Capitol building in Harrisburg on Thursday for the annual advocacy event at which students urge lawmakers to fund state schools.
SU students split up to speak to different representatives about their experience at SU and why funding is important to them.
Other students sat in on the meeting with the Senate appropriations committee where senators asked Interim PASSHE Chancellor Karen Whitney, SU President Laurie Carter and Indiana University of Pennsylvania Student Government Association President Brian Swatt questions about the PASSHE system.
During the meeting, they spoke about tuition, academic programs, school safety, recruitment and future plans for PASSHE schools. Whitney said student success is the main focus. Senators and others in the room made repeated comments about the importance of students being in the room during the meeting.
Following their meetings, all students representing PASSHE universities gathered on the steps of the Capitol’s rotunda. Students held signs with the hashtag “Prepared4PA” printed on them.
Whitney began by excitedly introducing the students and her fellow speakers. She also expressed the importance of funding education.
“There is no greater investment the state can make than the one it makes in the education of students, its citizenry, from prekindergarten through college,” Whitney said. “We are preparing the next generation of Pennsylvania leaders of business, education, health, the arts and beyond.”
To introduce Carter, Whitney described her as a success story because of her time as an undergrad at Clarion University. Carter began by describing how proud she was to be in front of so many PASSHE students.
She told her story of being a student athlete and how it taught her discipline, the importance of teamwork and the ability to balance multiple responsibilities.
“It is a privilege to return to a system that gave me so much as president of Shippensburg University. At Ship, I am able to bring my skills to a population of students who remind me a lot of myself,” Carter said.
Carter described the many opportunities students have to gain experience through job shadow programs, leadership positions and internships to prepare them to be the future leaders of Pennsylvania. She introduced Matthew Steck, an alumnus of SU who now works with Greenlee Partners.
He told the audience about how SU successfully prepared him for his future and his career working in government. He chose the university because of its affordability and because it provided him the opportunity to receive a high quality education.
“I am successful today because of what I learned at Shippensburg, and this advocacy campaign that is beginning today says it all—prepared for PA. It’s a message everyone in Harrisburg needs to hear,” Steck said.
Michele Papakie, chair of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) Department of Journalism and Public Relations, told her story of earning her undergraduate degree at IUP and her struggles with student debt.
“I have experienced Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education from a variety of vantage points,” Papakie said. “I’m a proud product of the state system and today I work to produce future proud products of the state system.”
Swatt and Kutztown University’s Student Government President Molly Gallagher also spoke of their experiences at PASSHE schools.
“The education I am receiving both inside and outside the classroom is incredible. That’s what these universities are about—that’s why we’re all here today,” Gallagher said.
To close, Whitney again stressed the importance of state funding for universities.
“Investment in the 14 state system universities is the investment in the success of every Pennsylvanian,” Whitney said.