Cleopatra Shabazz, a senior broadcast journalism student, is at the end of her run as a college undergraduate.

But the Simpsonville native will graduate in May with roughly $35,000 in debt and she wishes she could’ve had additional financial assistance. She hopes South Carolina legislators would approve increased funding for higher education.

As a part of the social media team on Carolina Day, a day where USC officials, lawmakers and students pushed for higher funding, she assisted in the promotion of the proposed Higher Education Opportunity Act.

“I think this is incredible,” Cleopatra Shabazz said Wednesday. “I think with Carolina Day it’s just emphasizing that you should invest in higher education because it’s worth investing in the future. We’re your future.”

According to a report in The State newspaper, 45% of USC freshmen take out loans averaging $8,048. That amount can increase to $32,192 in four years.

Shabazz balanced courses with making money through the university’s federal work-study program, building up her savings account in order to be stable after graduation.

“I had scholarships, grant money, came from a single parent home so I had help, but I kind of felt that I didn’t have enough help. I couldn’t just not work. It’s not easy just asking your mom can you set aside a couple thousand to give me for x-y-z. It just doesn’t work that way.”

During Carolina Day, Paula Harper Bethea, chief advancement officer and special advisor to USC President Harris Pastides, spoke about how the bill will not only create a sustainability around funding for the university but for all of the higher education in South Carolina.

“This is just the beginning. We’ve got to do more and we know that. I do think that that will make a huge difference. Now does that mean that we’re not going to be able to advocate for more moving forward? No,” Bethea said. “But it is, for the first time in about 18 years, sustainable funding that the universities and colleges can depend on.”

Pastides calls the act a “historic reinvestment” by the state, as it will ensure the success of the next generation of South Carolinians. Despite her upcoming graduation, Shabazz was more than happy to assist the social media team on Carolina Day to promote the bill for future students.

“Telling the legislators that to work hard and invest in us, then the world, the future is just going to be brighter,” she said.