Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed budget — which was sent to his desk on June 7 for a signature after receiving approval from both the state House and Senate — is expected to be signed into law within the next week.
The proposed budget includes a 15-percent cut in funding for higher education, and once signed, the University will experience an approximate $47 million dollar cut for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins July 1 — a sizeable cut that reduces the University to the level of funding they received in 1964.
Kurt Weiss, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said despite the vast cuts, Snyder’s proposed budget aims to help students by including an incentive for universities to keep tuition prices low by mandating that tuition rates do not increase more than the five-year average of 7.1 percent.
“The reason that incentive was put in there — the 7.1 percent rule — was to try to hold tuition hikes down,” Weiss said. “The goal was to try to incentivize Universities to not hike tuition drastically as a result of this cut.”
In accordance with this proposal, the University’s Board of Regents voted to increase tuition by 6.7 percent for in-state students and 2.9 percent for out-of-state student at their monthly meeting, according to a June 16 article in The Michigan Daily.
In a University press release, University President Mary Sue Coleman said that while the administration ultimately had to raise tuition in response to difficult economic times in the state, it would not compromise the quality of education provided by the University.
“While we continue to control costs, we are driven by the fundamental missions of academic excellence and affordability,” Coleman said. “On this we cannot and will not compromise. This generation of students expects their Michigan education to be the same quality and deliver the same positive impact in their lives as all those who have come before. Our job is to deliver on that promise.”
Weiss echoed Coleman’s sentiments and said that despite the cuts, the administration believes the University can maintain their level of distinction in providing a quality education to students.
“From a budget office perspective and from the administration’s perspective, we feel that the cuts that have been proposed are doable and that the University can continue to provide a great education for the kids here in Michigan, for our students,” Weiss said.
She added that while the state itself is looking for ways to cut costs, so are the various universities around Michigan. It will ultimately be up to each individual college to determine how to best allocate their funds and determine policy, she said.
“(The state is) looking for universities to adopt the best practices, to find savings in operational areas — whether that be healthcare, non-instructional line items,” Weiss said. “It would be up to each university as to how to become more efficient.”
According to the University press release, in order for the University to follow these recommendations, sacrifices must be made, including cutting employee benefits and closing programs.
“The University will ask employees to pay more for health benefits, close several centers, reduce operational staff through attrition when possible, and reduce and implement a host of other cost-cutting measures campus-wide,” the press release states.
John Jackson, a political science professor at the University, wrote in an e-mail interview that though he believed the cuts may be effective in balancing the state budget, they might not be the most effective in mitigating damage done to the state’s economy in the long term, largely because it may discourage students from attending and graduating from the University.
“There is very sound research that shows that economic growth and performance at all levels — metropolitan, state and national — increases with the education level and with the proportion of college graduates,” Jackson wrote.
Jackson added that research has presented evidence that a high number of college graduates is instrumental in helping to transform ailing economies like Michigan’s.
“If the shift from state to personal funding for college attendance, which has been going on for decades, reduces the number attending the implications are not good for the state’s economy,” Jackson wrote.