Last week, Michigan’s public universities received an unfortunate budgetary blow. The state’s new budget, which was passed Sept. 27, will slash funding for higher education. By initial estimates, the cuts translate to a $9-million decrease in funding for the University. Enough cannot be said about the importance of education. Primarily, the state’s economy will increasingly depend on jobs that require degrees from institutions of higher education. And yet, Lansing continues to siphon funds away from education — for primary, secondary and higher education. The state government needs to reexamine its principles, stop the cut in funding and begin to invest in the future leaders of the state.

The Daily reported last week that the new budget will cut funding for all higher education programs by 2.8 percent in the upcoming year. The goal of the cut is to balance the state budget, which is currently running a $484 million deficit. This is a drop in almost $500 million from last year for all public universities and a $9 million loss for the University. University officials anticipated such a cut and the University’s budget, which was passed back in June, reflects this prediction. The state budget also includes an increased amount of scholarship money available for students.

The cut in state funding shows that the state legislature isn’t properly prioritizing higher education in Michigan. The decision to continue to decrease higher education funding, which already represents less than five percent of the total state budget, is a poor decision on the part of the legislature. Higher education is one of the most valuable public resources the state can provide and it’s crucial that these institutions receive adequate state funding.

The state’s economic crisis has shown that Michigan can’t continue to rely on manufacturing jobs to recover from the downturn. Education and research will help create new jobs in the state — and cuts show that the legislature doesn’t understand the significance of education. The state government should reevaluate what is important for Michigan’s future and allocate taxpayers’ money appropriately. The current and future job market makes a college degree essential, which is why Michigan’s public universities are so important. The state has an obligation to support the institutions that will give the next generation of Michigan workers an advantage.

While the legislators continue to take money from education, it’s important to point out how the state uses other resources. According to the 2008 Annual Report from the Department of Corrections, the state spent over $2 billion on corrections costs in that year — and corrections spending has steadily grown since 1998. And Michigan is one of only four states that spend more on corrections than higher education in 2008. A more responsible choice would be to allocate funds away from corrections toward education. The state needs to be sure that all funding to corrections are vital and reevaluate their spending so that higher education doesn’t suffer.

Undoubtedly, something needs to be done to balance Michigan’s budget. But taking much-needed funding from higher education isn’t the answer. The state legislature should recognize how important education is to the future of our state and do everything possible to financially support it.

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