There are few things college students hate more than tuition increases. But as the University tries to cope with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts to higher education funding, students may be in store for disappointment.

The premise behind Snyder’s budget proposal was all about “shared sacrifice.” The state is facing major budget shortfalls, and changes need to be made to ensure that Michigan has a healthy economic future. This is a point that most state leaders agree on. Another point of agreement is the importance of helping Michigan businesses succeed in order to foster job production and bring innovative minds to the state. State leaders, including University President Mary Sue Coleman, also believe strong education systems are important for the future of the state.

When it comes to budget cuts, there are clear financial priorities and places that need to be “sacrificed,” but universities should not be one of them.

Whereas Snyder cut taxes for businesses by more than $1 billion, he also cut funding for Universities by 15 percent — with the potential for more cuts if schools don’t keep tuition increases under 7.1 percent. Businesses see huge financial relief, and schools see major financial setbacks — not quite the attitude of “shared sacrifice” that Snyder likes to discuss.

Cuts need to be made and spending needs to be controlled, but it’s difficult to listen to speeches about the importance of education when the state’s true attitude about what’s important is evident in the budget. And while the state and the University are trying to manage their finances, students are struggling to manage theirs.

Coleman recently spoke with The Michigan Daily about the University’s tuition increases and said she can’t guarantee that the figure will be below the 7.1 percent mark when tuition is decided this summer. An increase of that magnitude would translate to a tuition hike of $827 for in-state students and $2,542.66 for out-of-state students paying lower division LSA tuition, according to a March 7 Michigan Daily article. While testifying before the state Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Higher Education last week, Coleman discussed the University’s value to the state and the importance of education. But for students and parents facing the potentially staggering tuition increases, her words are taken with a grain of salt.

When 2011-2012 tuition rates become available for public universities throughout the state, some students will be forced to take out additional loans, place an even heavier financial burden on their parents or decide that higher education is simply not a viable option. Either way, students will certainly feel their share of the sacrifice.

The University — and all 15 public universities in Michigan — need to be recognized as an asset to the state, not an undue expense. For businesses to fill the new jobs that their tax breaks will hopefully allow them to create, they will need a well-educated Michigan work force, and those people should come from Michigan universities. But if students are being priced out of higher education, that goal will not become a reality. The state and the University Board of Regents — who ultimately decide tuition increases — need to make sure they prioritize education and make it financially accessible for all Michigan students.

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