From the state Legislature’s point of view, University administrators should breathe a little easier after last week’s announcement of the state’s finalized higher education budget, which will provide $2.3 million more than expected. But after three years of continuous cuts totaling nearly $50 million, the budget is a far cry from good news – just compared to last year, state appropriations have dropped by $4.3 million. In order to prevent higher education from being squeezed out in difficult financial times, Lansing must reconsider and retool its appropriations process.Of course, lawmakers are patting themselves on the back for saving higher education, claiming that they increased funding for all 15 of Michigan’s public universities. But they are basing their praise on figures that came after last spring’s reductions, cuts that left university administrators across the state scrambling. After this summer’s tuition hike, the state’s neglect of the University became apparent not just to administrators but also to parents forced to fork over an additional $1,000 in tuition this year. And now, students concerned with the impact these cuts will have on the quality and accessibility of higher education are taking notice as well. Expression of dissatisfaction by students at the University and nationwide reveals the dire situation in which public universities find themselves. This sort of grassroots action is crucial to pressure lawmakers to find long-term ways to adequately fund public universities.A new group headquartered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has been gaining support at more than 100 public universities, and it aims to address the shrinking state allocations that plague universities nation wide. At the University, students have begun to organize with this nameless but promising group, hoping to pressure lawmakers at the state and national level to take higher education funding more seriously. These students have cited a loss of faculty, larger class sizes and soaring education costs as the consequences of falling state appropriations. Each year, the state scrapes the bottom of the barrel to fund higher education, and each year, it comes up short. Funding for higher education deserves a secure place in the budget alongside K-12 funding, not lumped together with other discretionary items. Students, along with administrators, can be an important voice to undo years of shrinking state appropriations. It will be crucial for students show solidarity, uniting not only with other University students, but with those nationwide, to make their voices heard. The University has absorbed past reductions in state allocations with internal budget cuts and tuition increases, and now the impact of these reductions is trickling down to students. Issues of higher education funding can no longer be confined to air-conditioned boardrooms and congressional chambers – students must mobilize to pressure the state to adequately fund its universities.

Chelsea Trull

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