Education First to lend USU voice in state legislature
Published: Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 13:01
The student body presidency at USU said their goal was to make students better prepared for life after college. Education First, a branch of a group called Prosperity 2020, is working with USU for the upcoming legislative session to achieve that goal.
Erik Mikkelsen, who represents students in Utah to the Utah Board of Regents, said Prosperity 2020 wants to secure a better future for business in the state.
“Prosperity 2020 is a group of business leaders who see education as being very important for the future of Utah,” Mikkelsen said. “A lot of their ideas and their goals come from a study that was done that says that Utah needs to have 66 percent of the adult population with postsecondary degrees by 2020 to be competitive in the nation and the world’s economies.”
Mikkelsen said Education First is the political action group within Prosperity 2020 that deals with the Utah legislature directly and has been working with USU and other public universities to get more attention for public education.
“Last year they had a heavy focus on getting delegates who would be committed to voting for candidates who would support education,” Mikkelsen said. “So they raised a bunch of money and did a whole bunch of training on campuses but mostly in businesses throughout the state to encourage people who support education to go and become delegates to vote for those candidates.”
Ben Wilson, executive vice president for ASUSU, said one of the key things Education First is doing to further higher education is funding lobbying efforts made by USU and other institutions.
“They want to boost the percentage of Utahns who are college educated,” Wilson said. “One of the ways they are doing that is funding, which of course is good for us. It’s a partnership between students, administration and business all to improve the higher education in Utah.”
Wilson said the funding is necessary but overshadowed by different kinds of support USU gets from Education First.
“It’s more than them just funding this,” Wilson said. “Lending us their voices is a huge part of it and is really important to us.”
Wilson said Utah is one of the more popular places for businesses to foster growth in the U.S. Without the help of lobbying efforts by the different universities and support from Education First, Wilson said Utah would start to lose its popularity and economy.
“There’s a number of reasons that businesses come to Utah,” Wilson said. “People talk about our low taxes and things like that, but low taxes isn’t the whole picture. The fact that we have some great institutions, Utah State first and foremost among them, in the state is one of the big things that bring businesses here.”
He said if higher education isn’t a higher priority in Utah, future business would be impossible.
“It doesn’t matter if you have lower taxes if you have no one to work for your company,” Wilson said.
Mikkelsen said the focus of Education First was to not only to attract more attention to higher education across the state, but to all levels including kindergarten and the first grade.
“To reach that goal of having 66 percent of the populace, we’re going to have to increase the number of people who come to higher education,” Mikkelsen said. “We’re going to have to increase the percentage of students who graduate from institutions of higher education.”
Mikkelsen said the group has been working on a two-part project to show the government how many people support Education First and to call for more priority given to education. He said last year a petition was signed by 33,000 students to show they wanted more focus on higher education. This year students across the state are signing a pledge to graduate on time. Education First has a goal of 40,000 signatures on this new petition.
Both petitions will be presented before the state legislature during session, which begins Jan. 28 and lasts until March 14, and both petitions will be presented before the state during the session.