Clad in their best burnt orange attire, alumni took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for the second annual Longhorns on the Hill event. Higher education issues such as research funding, campus safety, and affordability were top priority as alumni visited with legislators to advocate for UT-Austin.
As university administrators, alumni, and the Texas delegation began the day—naturally—with breakfast tacos at the Phoenix Park Hotel, keynote speaker and former UT quarterback Vince Young reflected on his time on the Forty Acres. As a proud first-generation college graduate, he now works with low-income students through UT’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. His story about the importance of education and giving back was “inspiring,” Christopher Ginder tweeted.
Volunteers visited more than 25 congressional offices throughout the afternoon. Both UT President Greg Fenves and Young also made the rounds and were welcomed with open arms, even by Aggie Rep. Will Hurd, who tweeted, “I’m surrounded by #HornsOnTheHill! Great education discussion with UT-Austin President Greg Fenves & Vince Young #GigEm.”
Conversations focused on increasing federal funding for research that helps UT-Austin remain atop world rankings. Research conducted at UT-Austin brings in more than $724 million to the Texas economy, the equivalent of almost 12,000 jobs. However, federal funding has decreased in recent years.
Another issue focused on the growing number of students struggling with student debt. Even though UT-Austin remains one of the best higher education values in the nation, advocates stressed the importance of easing this burden to ensure a skilled and educated workforce.
Lastly, advocates urged legislators to prioritize campus safety. While UT is tackling the issue of campus sexual assault head-on, alumni encouraged Congress to ensure that proposed policies and procedures are fair to all students, and ultimately result in safer campus environments—an issue at the top of UT Student Government President Kevin Helgren’s agenda.
“It was cool to sit down and talk to the people who are making decisions at a federal level,” Helgren said. “They were very receptive to the stories we had to share and our feedback.” The energy in D.C. is reinvigorating, he added. “As a student I was really humbled to be a part of the trip … it was a really positive experience.”
Below, check out the social media highlights from the day:
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Cary Michael Cox:
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