Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s newly unveiled budget for fiscal year 2014 calls for a slight raise in funding for higher education — a 2-percent increase from the last year. While the increase seems like a good move on the surface, modest growth in education spending comes after large cuts that occurred over the past two years, including a staggering 15-percent cut for 2012 and a 3-percent reduction the year before. While Snyder’s increase in education funding recognizes the need to invest in this area after two years of hard cuts, his desired increase isn’t sufficient enough to be effective
Snyder’s bill includes a 2-percent increase for both higher education and community colleges. State universities and community colleges are both funded on performance-based measurements. Universities’ performances are based on the number of federal Pell Grant recipients they have, undergraduate degree completions and adherence to tuition-cost restraint. Snyder plans to have $100 million in bonds to allocate to universities that try to increase graduation rates and the number of students enrolled in engineering. For community colleges, $8.5 million will be distributed to those that increase degrees in critical skills areas.
Because of Snyder’s previous cuts, a 2-percent increase — which may not keep pace with inflation — is not enough. As Michigan continues to suffer from a brain-drain effect — or the widespread emigration of highly skilled individuals — a larger focus must be placed on sustainable education. Michigan needs a larger increase in higher education to stay nationally and globally competitive, improve the economy in the future and make up for the cuts of the last two years.
Snyder’s budget also calls for incentives in the state’s community colleges, offering $8.5 million for local colleges that produce graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. However, these incentives should be expanded to four-year institutions. Larger universities also struggle with producing majors in these so-called “critical areas.” By expanding these incentive programs to bigger state intuitions, Snyder can ensure the innovation that he championed for in his campaign.
Increasing the number of graduates who stay in the state must also become a goal for Snyder. In 2009, only 24.6 percent of Michigan’s population held a bachelor’s degree or higher. The governor could look into other ideas, like tax incentives for college graduates who stay in state — a policy Maine has adopted. Other states, most notably Pennsylvania, have thought of forgiving student loans for those graduates who decide to work in state. Gov. Snyder needs to look at more efficient ways of improving and utilizing education in Michigan.
Snyder has started, slowly but surely, to increase education funding. His proposed budget does call for increases, but the increases are insignificant compared to the cuts he has made in the past. He also lacks ideas about ways to improve college education in Michigan and should be working to keep recent graduates in state. Snyder must be more ardent in his plans to better Michigan’s education.