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Snyder cuts higher education funding by 15 percent

BY BETHANY BIRON
Daily News Editor
Published February 17, 2011

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder announced his proposed budget for the 2012 fiscal year in Lansing yesterday, outlining substantial cuts in government spending, including a 15-percent decrease in higher education funding.

After hearing word of the proposed decrease in funds for higher education, University officials said they had expected cuts and will take them into account when planning the University's budget. Democratic legislators also expressed disappointment yesterday in the possibility of the reduction in state allocations to Michigan colleges and universities.

Snyder’s proposed 15-percent reduction is more than five times greater than the 2.8-percent cut in state appropriations for public universities in the 2011 fiscal year.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said in an interview after the University’s Board of Regents meeting yesterday that University officials had been expecting another cut to higher education funding in the upcoming fiscal year and are now in the process of determining how this will impact the University.

“We didn’t know what to expect actually, but we knew, just looking at the revenues of the state, that things were going to be tough, of course,” Coleman said. “I’m all for investing in our education because I think it is the key to the future, but we haven’t had time to analyze (the cuts) yet.”

University Provost Philip Hanlon echoed Coleman’s statements and said University administrators had been monitoring the state budget in anticipation of cuts to higher education funding. Despite Michigan’s challenged economic environment, the University will continue to work toward sustaining University operations, Hanlon said.

"We’ve been watching the state budget closely for a number of years, and we understand the difficult situation (lawmakers are) in, and we’ve been preparing and we’ll do everything we can to support student affordability and academic excellence,” he said.

Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president for government relations, said yesterday that the University is in the preliminary stages of interpreting how the proposed budget will affect University operations. She added that it is too early to determine the impact a decrease in state funding would have on next year’s tuition.

“It’s a lot to go through, and we’re just beginning the process of really analyzing the various aspects of the budget," Wilbanks said.

She explained that in past years, state appropriations were supplemented by federal stimulus funding. Now that the state will receive less stimulus money, there will be no funds to offset the large cut to higher education.

“The state budgets had been supported in part over the last several fiscal years by the injection of federal stimulus funds, but we knew that there would be a time coming when those funds would no longer be available to plug the budget gaps,” she said.

The University Research Corridor — a collaboration between the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University that focuses on maximizing the state’s resources to boost the economy — issued a statement yesterday that said despite the decrease in funding that will potentially impact the universities’ research initiatives, they will keep collaborating to foster growth within the universities, and in turn, the state.

“We will continue to work as a partner with the state to balance fiscal necessity with the need to keep all of Michigan's public universities strong and competitive,” URC Executive Director Jeff Mason wrote in the statement. “We will remain committed to being a positive force in reinventing our state and meeting this century's economic challenges — and we've shown time and again that investing in higher education reaps a solid return.”

State Sen.