University President Mary Sue Coleman has
signaled her intent to accept Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s budget
proposal to keep tuition at or below the rate of inflation. By
doing so, the state’s 5 percent cut to funding for the
University will be lowered to 2 percent. Coleman announced that by
agreeing to Granholm’s plan, the University would save about
$20 million in state funds this year and for many years to come.
But according to Coleman, the plan is not a sound solution for the
long run.

Beth Dykstra

It is important that Granholm is addressing the issue of
tuition, as it is clearly one of the more pressing and problematic
issues at the University. As a result of the agreement, in-state
students would see a tuition increase about equal to the rate of
inflation.

While a tuition increase tied to the rate of inflation will no
doubt come as a relief to students used to increases of more than 5
percent a year, the proposal is not without faults. By accepting
the plan, the University runs the risk of losing some of its
autonomy, as it appears the state can control vital aspects of
University policy.

Coleman was placed in a very difficult position. If she rejected
Granholm’s proposal, then the state would levy an additional
3 percent penalty that would total an 18 percent cut over the next
2 years, as opposed to a 12 percent cut as written in the plan.
Faced with threats of a $40 million budget shortfall, Coleman did
the only thing she could — bow down to the state. The only
other option would have been to raise tuition an astronomical 15 to
20 percent. Still, the University faces a sizable shortage,
necessitating further cuts.

Needless to say, students favor a lower tuition hike, but any
change in the tuition increase should come from the University
— not the state. Granholm’s method, forcing the
University to accept her proposal, might work to the advantage of
the students on this occasion, but in the future Granholm might
subject the University to other critical choices that are less
suitable to students.

Furthermore, the agreement is only favorable to a select
population. While the University is a public school and has a duty
to educate in-state students, it has historically welcomed
out-of-state students. Granholm’s proposal certainly
alleviates the problem of rapidly growing tuition for in-state
students, but it actually could hurt out-of-state students. The
plan does not mention out-of-state tuition, but because the
University will lose money over the next year as a result of the
new plan, it is likely that out-of-state tuition rates will rise
significantly.

The University prides itself on autonomy from the state. While
Coleman claims that the agreement does not jeopardize that ideal,
perhaps it is not the subject of the agreement that poses the
problem, but rather the nature of the agreement. It is critical
that the University remain wary of, and avoid succumbing to, state
pressure in future situations.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *