Student activism has long been a hallmark of the college experience and the Old Dominion University student body, dating back to the earliest days of the school, has been engaged and passionate about their support and advocacy for their alma mater.Students are the heart and soul of this institution, and we are dedicated to providing you access to a quality, affordable and successful academic experience.With the General Assembly session now underway in Richmond, it seems prudent to keep ODU’s most dedicated advocates apprised of the university’s legislative priorities.In December, Governor Robert McDonnell announced his amendments to the 2012-14 biennial budget, which included an additional $5.3 million in base funding for Old Dominion over the nearly $18 million approved by the governor and General Assembly for the biennium last April.Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly have been incredibly supportive of Old Dominion and its commitment to continued affordability and accessibility. I am thankful for all they have done, and continue to do, to make not only Old Dominion, but the state’s entire higher education system, one of the best in the country, bar none.Yet now is not the time for this university to rest on its laurels. ODU is on an upward trajectory that is unparalleled in its history and continued support is critical. Old Dominion’s General Fund shortfall remains at $43 million and the university is funded at only 85 percent of the state’s funding calculation, the very lowest among Virginia public higher education institutions.Approximately 88 percent of our fall 2012 enrollment is comprised of in-state students. Since 2004, ODU has added more in-state students than any of the other public university and has added the third largest number of in-state students over the past decade.Paradoxically, due to state budget cuts sustained over five consecutive years, General Fund support for these additional in-state students has significantly decreased, resulting in ODU receiving the smallest percentage of funding among all of the state’s colleges and universities.Despite these funding constraints, Old Dominion has consistently had among the lowest increases in undergraduate tuition among the public institutions. Our students cannot, and should not, shoulder the burden of inequitable funding.Our top priority during the 2013 General Assembly session is a request of $15 million to address the University’s shortage of full-time faculty. Currently, ODU’s faculty-student ratio is 21 to 1, the highest of any doctoral institution in the Commonwealth. These funds will allow the university to hire almost 200 additional faculty, with an emphasis on STEM and other critical shortage areas, bringing our ratio to 17 to 1, and on par with our peer institutions.This directly benefits you and your education, and the university needs your support. Two organizations–the ODU Government Relations Student Advisory Committee (GRSAC) and Virginia 21–are student-run, non-partisan groups that advocate on behalf of Old Dominion University and higher education in general.GRSAC will be holding its annual Old Dominion University Day at the General Assembly on Jan. 23. They also do a variety of grassroots activities and events throughout the year. The same is true of Virginia 21. You can find out more about either organization through the Office of Student Activities and LeadershipI urge you to take part in the discussion, get involved and engaged and, by doing so, assure that high-quality, affordable education remains a possibility not only for you, but for future generations.