Students converge on State House to lobby for more help paying for college

Hundreds of Massachusetts college students, many of them saddled with debt, flooded lawmakers’ offices at the State House on Tuesday to lobby for increased funding for financial aid programs.

The event, titled “Public Higher Education Advocacy Day,” kicked off with a pep rally inside the building’s Gardner Auditorium.

Governor Deval Patrick’s proposed $1.9 billion tax plan would help pay for the investment. Patrick made a brief appearance and told the students to act on their behalf.

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“All I want you to do is to go and engage … engage with the members of the Legislature who are nervous and uncomfortable about a so-called tax vote … and remind them that taxes are the price of civilization,” Patrick said.

Several students spoke about their experiences in patching together the cost of college.

“I’m graduating in the spring and I will have over $24,000 in debt, and I haven’t even transferred to a four-year college,” said Nicole Oiumette, who attends Holyoke Community College. “I’m devoted to making sure that we all are able to have more accessible and affordable higher education so that in the future students do not have to feel the pains that we are now.”

The students broke up into groups as small as two and as large as more than 30, and walked to the offices of their respective elected officials. A few of the groups had face-to-face meetings with their representatives or senators, while most groups met with legislative aides.