In new data published by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Michigan ranked 44th nationally in per-resident support of higher education for the fiscal year 2019. 

On a per-dollar basis, Michigan spent $195.52 per resident, while the national average stands at $280.60. According to calculations, if Michigan were to increase its spending per-resident to the national average, Michigan would be investing almost $850 million more into its higher education institutions.  

This new data comes as a dramatic shift from a few decades ago when Michigan was above the state average in per resident spending on higher education. In 2001, for example, Michigan ranked 20th nationally in per resident spending on higher education at $230.56, not adjusting for inflation.

In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed to reverse this trend by increasing funding for Michigan’s higher education institutions by 3 percent, totalling around $45.6 million, for the fiscal year 2020. Meanwhile, Michigan’s legislature has pushed for a different budget that allocates a 1 percent increase in higher education spending.  

Around campus, opinions seem to be divided with some students bringing up Michigan’s tuition and others mentioning the impact raising taxes would have on taxpayers. 

LSA junior Derek Li admitted he did not know much about the higher education spending in the state, but found it surprising given the size of Michigan. Li also said it makes sense given how high tuition is.

“It’s surprising,” Li said. “I didn’t really know much about this prior but it is surprising considering how big of a university Michigan is and in terms of our public ranking and what not. It does make sense, though, given how high tuition is especially for out-of-state students.”

Li voiced some understanding regarding why Michigan’s ranking, saying he did not want to raise spending if it would have a negative impact on taxpayers. 

“If too high spending is detrimental to residents and if taxes were increased in a way that would hurt them then I feel like it would be understandable to keep spending low,” Li said.

When he learned of Whitmer’s proposal to increase the state budget by 3 percent, Li showed general approval of it.

“A 3-percent increase seems high,” Li said. “As long has Whitmer evaluated the effects of this spending though,  I think it should be fine. It definitely sounds like a plus for us.”

Engineering junior Alex Schiffer, a student from Indiana, said he was not too surprised by the lower level of higher education spending.

“I come from a very conservative state so the lack of spending in higher education is not surprising,” Schiffer said.

LSA freshman Ignacio Barreras pushed back against the sentiment that spending more on higher education would hurt Michigan taxpayers.

“I don’t know that it will be such a significant impact just raising taxes a little bit more to apply towards higher education,” Barreras said.

Barreras also brought up tuition at the university in relation to the state’s ranking, explaining higher tuition and costs are worth the superior education at U-M.

“Tuition is very high considering that I am an out of state student,” Barreras said. “It is definitely than other public schools but my family decided to take the investment because of the competitiveness of this school.”

However, Barreras said the U-M itself does not need additional funding in his opinion.

“I don’t see any flaws facility wise or staff wise,” Barreras said. “I don’t see any flaws where there is an urgent need for more money.”

Correction: An earlier version of the graphic for this article misspelled the word resident.We have corrected the mistake in this version. 


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