Why call something a promise if you have no problem breaking it? As Michigan struggles with an estimated $1.7-billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year, the state is looking at eliminating the Michigan Promise Scholarship. While some tough cuts will need to be made to balance the budget, scholarship aid is too important to eliminate. With the state’s poor economic situation compounded by ever-increasing college tuition rates, students need state-funded scholarships more than ever. The state shouldn’t break the promise it made to students — and state residents — to help pay for their futures.

Michigan’s House of Representatives is now considering a bill to eliminate the $140-million, merit-based Michigan Promise Scholarship. The bill, which the Senate has already passed, could cut the scholarship to help compensate for the state’s massive budget deficit. The scholarship was signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm in December of 2006 to encourage Michigan residents to attend college by giving financial assistance to those who pass the standardized Michigan Merit Exam or successfully complete two years of post-secondary education. More than 96,000 students receive up to $4,000 per person from the scholarship.

Most importantly, retracting the Michigan Promise Scholarship would hurt students who depend on this money. For those who performed well on the MME, the scholarship pays out the money in increments during the first two years of post-secondary education. That means that students attending college this fall were already calculating the scholarship into their budgets. Students are finding it difficult to fund their college education, evenwithout losing promised scholarships. Revoking this scholarship money would make college a less realistic possibility for many.

Michigan needs to make college more accessible for its residents, not less. After all, a well-educated workforce is the best way to rescue the state’s economy. Michigan’s current economic failures are partly a result of the state’s dependence on the automotive industry. The state needs to utilize every method it can to attract more businesses to the state, and the best way to do that is to diversify the state’s economy. If the state invests in higher education, the number of college graduates in Michigan will rise, making the state more appealing to the diverse group of businesses based in science and technology that the state needs. These kinds of science- and knowledge- based businesses could help turn around the state’s economy.

But the Michigan Promise Scholarship is more than just a helping hand. It was a promise to support higher education. If the state were to eliminate the scholarship, it would be showing a serious lack of commitment to higher education during a time when education is needed more than ever. It would also call into question the ability of the state government to keep its word on important issues like education.

The bill to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship might save the state money in the short term, but improving Michigan’s economy for the long haul depends upon the creation of more jobs that require a college education. The Michigan legislature shouldn’t break its promise. The state’s students — and its own future — depend on it.

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