Wilkes-Barre students advocate for Penn State at state Capitol

Four people standing in front of a set of stairs.

From left: Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Lynda Goldstein; state Representative Mike Cabell, 117th Legislative District; and Penn State Wilkes-Barre students Derek Dietz and Alyssa Pritchard at Capital Day.

Credit: Penn State

DALLAS, Pa. — Students from Penn State Wilkes-Barre joined a contingent of others from across Pennsylvania for the annual Capital Day event in Harrisburg on March 18. More than 200 Penn State students in total spent the day at the state Capitol to meet with legislators and advocate for the University’s annual state appropriation.

Capital Day provides an opportunity for Penn State students to meet with their legislators about the importance of funding for higher education. Students are able to share their stories about their personal experiences and why a Penn State education is important to them.

Currently, Penn State receives $3,000 and $3,600 less per Pennsylvania student than its in-state peers. Fair funding is vital for Penn State; it is the foundation to in-state tuition and it allows for the continued investment in the high-quality academic programs that recruit and retain the best talent from Pennsylvania and beyond.

Penn State Wilkes-Barre students Derek Dietz, Hailey Long, Kaleah Moran and Alyssa Pritchard were accompanied by Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Lynda Goldstein and Director of Student Services and Engagement Wanda Ochei. Following the legislator meetings, they joined other Penn State students, staff and faculty for a press conference and rally on the stairs of the historic rotunda, followed by an ice cream social featuring Penn State Berkey Creamery ice cream.

“We are proud of our students who traveled to Harrisburg to speak out for Penn State and increased funding,” Goldstein said. “At a campus where 91% of our students receive financial assistance, fair funding is of the utmost importance. Their advocacy efforts can help ensure that future Penn Staters continue to receive an affordable and accessible education.”

Moran, a sophomore majoring in environmental systems engineering, hopes to pursue a master’s degree after earning her bachelor’s degree.

“Knowing that I have at least three more years left of education, I have unfortunately come to terms that I will enter my career with student loans,” she said. “When the opportunity of Capital Day arose, I felt that I needed to advocate for not only myself, but for my fellow classmates, to achieve increased funding to hopefully lessen the load of loans in our futures. In visiting the Capitol, I was able to meet other students from different campuses, all with different majors, but a common goal.”

Moran’s designated meeting was with state Rep. Alec Ryncavage, who represents District 119 in Luzerne County. His district includes Nanticoke, Plymouth Township, the borough of Plymouth, Hanover Township, Ashley, Rice Township, Wright Township and Fairview Township. Ryncavage is a former Plymouth Borough council member and graduate of Wyoming Valley West High School. At 22 years old, he is currently the youngest member of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives. Moran said that during the meeting with Ryncavage, they spoke for about 25 minutes about what Penn State means to Moran and to the state of Pennsylvania.

“By increasing funding, legislators would not only be investing in Penn State, but they would also be investing in the future of the Keystone state due to Penn State graduates being more likely to live in Pennsylvania than any other state,” Moran said. “I feel it is our duty as students to understand our worth and advocate for fair treatment in comparison to other state-funded schools.”

Penn Staters are encouraged to join the virtual advocacy campaign by sending a message to their legislators and the governor through advocate.psu.edu.