BY THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Published March 24, 2010
It seems inevitable — though distasteful — that tuition will increase again this summer. And one of the budget bills passed on Tuesday by the Michigan Senate won’t ease the severity of that increase. If it becomes law, the bill would decrease the funding public universities receive from the state in the next fiscal year. But higher education can’t manage another funding cut. Before the state House of Representatives votes on the bill, it must realize that it would damage not only higher education in the state, but also the state’s potential economic recovery. To protect Michigan, state representatives should vote the bill down.
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On Tuesday, the state Senate passed a bill that would drastically cut funding for public universities. The bill, which will now head to the House Appropriations Committee, would reduce state aid to public universities and colleges by 3.1 percent. The legislation was cited as one of the many ways state politicians are looking to alleviate the states' approximately $920 million budget deficit. According to a Monday report in the Daily, the University would see a $10.2 million cut in state aid if the bill is approved by the full legislature. The bill would also establish a Tuition Grant Program that intends to help students pay for their attendance at private colleges within the state.
Unavoidably, cuts will have to be made to balance the state’s budget deficit. But more cuts to higher education are unacceptable. Public universities’ ability to help improve Michigan’s economy is damaged when funding is cut. Institutions like the University bring the state revenue by drawing in researchers and producing students in a variety of fields to diversify Michigan’s economy. The state must allocate more funding to this economic resource, not cut it.
And slashing funding to public universities would mean that funding for the colleges would have to be supplemented elsewhere, like from student pockets' or the elimination of programs. Students can’t afford another cut to education funding. Funding cuts will inevitably lead to an even steeper tuition hike for University students than expected. Though the budget passed by the Senate includes a grant program, it wouldn’t compensate all the students affected by tuition increases — it only subsidizes tuition for private universities. The state legislature must consider these side-effects before it makes more cuts to education.
The state legislature should look at other programs that can withstand cuts, like the state’s corrections budget. Currently, over 20 percent of the state's general fund is put toward correctional facilities — almost $2 billion to a single department. Correctional facilities could handle a decrease in funding. But one of the budgets passed on Tuesday by the Senate actually increased funding to corrections by $43.7 million, according to a Tuesday report by The Detroit News. Instead of increasing funding to an already bloated system, the state should dedicate more money to underfunded institutions of higher education.
The state should be increasing funding to higher education — not cutting it. The House should encourage higher education’s effect on the economy and protect Michigan students by not passing the education budget.