DETROIT – University President Mary Sue Coleman joined her counterparts from the state’s two other research universities in an appearance before the state House appropriations subcommittee on higher education in support of a bill that would increase funding to the three schools by 2.5 percent.

Jessica Boullion
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman (right) and MSU President Anna Lou Simon (left) during a meeting with the Detroit Free Press editorial board Wednesday after testimony before a House appropriations subcommittee. (AP PHOTO)

Wayne State University President Irvin Reid said that these “powerhouses of research” are vital to Michigan’s entrepreneurial future and that economic development starts in Ann Arbor, East Lansing and Detroit.

The call for the increase in funding comes as the state battles budget shortfalls.

Still, the university presidents said their mission was vital to helping the state’s battered economy recover.

“It’s just their opportunity to expand on their special missions,” said subcommittee chair Pam Byrnes, a Democrat whose district includes the University of Michigan’s North Campus.

Byrnes said that the testimony allowed the universities to promote themselves as an economic asset.

The university presidents emphasized that the only way to remain economically stable is through innovation, and that Michigan’s research universities are critical to producing innovative individuals.

“We are at risk if we don’t commit to more math and science,” Coleman said.

One way the universities want to promote economic growth is through medical and nursing degrees. A presentation compiled by the three research institutions said Wayne State, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are responsible for all medical degrees and nursing doctorates issued in the state.

The presentation also said the universities made 95 percent of the state’s research and development expenditures in 2003. The University of Michigan made 57 percent.

Good research, MSU President Lou Anna Simon said, “is the real essential force of a strong economic future.”

The students and staff collaborating on these projects, she said, will “lead Michigan into a more prosperous and stable future.”

Simon said that 26,000 students graduate each year from the three universities combined.

Entrepreneurial leaders from around the state also spoke in support of granting universities more funds. They said that partnerships with colleges are vital to successful entrepreneurial and research opportunities.

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