“A significant reduction of our state appropriation will lead to an adverse effect on the education of our students,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said yesterday in Lansing.

At the Michigan State Capitol testifying before the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Coleman and the presidents of four other public universities asked the committee members to soften the budget cuts to higher education proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm earlier this month.

Under Granholm’s proposal, the University will suffer a $23.4 million decrease in funding. Should the Legislature approve the measure, the cut would have strong negative effects on the state’s economic prospects, Coleman said.

“The lifetime economic benefits of education are well understood by our students, who seek to join us in record numbers,” Coleman said. “It is true that we depend on our appropriation from the state – but at the University of Michigan, we give back far more to the state than we receive in our appropriation.”

Coleman noted the University has made many important state contributions, including the creation of new economic opportunities through $456 million in federal revenue to Michigan for research last year.

Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor), a member of the subcommittee, said Coleman’s remarks were helpful in creating a dialogue about the importance of higher education as an economic development resource for the state. He added that while the future of statewide universities’ funding is uncertain, there is support for higher education within the house.

“There’s a vocal minority who are looking to see what can be done to help the universities. Where that effort goes from here – I’m not sure,” Kolb said. “We need to start looking at the long-term impact of our decisions. (The universities) can weather a one-year cut, but we cannot support a long-term reduction in the quality of our higher education.”

Coleman also affirmed the University’s commitment to provide sufficient financial aid resources for students in need and to keep tuition from increasing too dramatically.

“We have kept tuition increases as low as possible over the past several years, especially in comparison to our Big Ten counterparts.”

“In this state, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have been leaders in tuition restraint,” Coleman said.

Provost Paul Courant said while there is no legal limitation to the amount by which the University can raise tuition, the University Board of Regents will not rely solely on tuition increases to cover the cuts to state funding and rising costs in utility, medical care, security systems and other expenses.

“There is no possible way that tuition increases could be large enough to cover the cuts and the $50 million in new costs for next year,” Courant said.

“We will certainly be taking expenditures out of the budget.”

The Michigan legislature is expected to make its final decisions on the governor’s proposals in June.

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