AMHERST, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Bus loads of UMass Amherst students and faculty hit the road on Thursday, bound for the State House. They’re asking lawmakers to pass a bill to give public colleges and universities more than half a billion dollars more in state funding.

The wheels on those buses went round and round to Boston, pressuring lawmakers to approve legislation called the Cherish Act.

"Sharing students stories, so they understand how serious this issue is," said UMass freshman Erik Plowden.

The students, faculty, and staff clearly prepared for a long day and gave out 'Grab and Go' bags for the road.

"It would just bring so much funding to our campus that we need," said UMass freshman Cooper Lewis.

The act would revitalize higher-learning in the state by raising per-student spending, adjusted for inflation, from $8,500 a year to $12,500.

According to the Mass. Budget and Policy Center, that would bring the total back to the level it was 18 years ago after dropping more than 30 percent since 2001.

"Smaller class sizes, individual faculty attention, the importance of having full-time tenure system faculty as opposed to part-time adjuncts doing the teaching," said Eve Weinbaum with the Mass. Society of Professors.

Weinbaum told Western Mass News the Cherish Act would benefit faculty by offering more full-time positions, which in turn helps students.

"Permanent faculty, you know, students are here for four years, they know their faculty will be here for four years. When they graduate, they can come back, talk to their advisors, and get letters of recommendation," Weinbaum added.

Approval of the extra funding would also allow a five year freeze on tuition and fees, something students also taking the bus to Boston said would come in handy.

"When I first started applying for colleges because I was very anxious, because I was very worried about taking student debt loans. Also, I have a friend that nearly transferred out his first semester because of debt," Lewis added.

Currently, the bill sits in limbo with the state's higher learning committee. Advocates for this act said that they hope their presence on Beacon Hill will sway more to their cause.

"Our job is to make sure that it stays on the list of priorities because there's so many things they're talking about this budget season," Weinbaum said.

Copyright 2019 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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