Last night, Gov. Jennifer Granholm delivered her annual State of the State address from the floor of the Michigan House of Representatives. With the federal stimulus package — which could fund many state programs — facing an uncertain future, Granholm focused on several major suggestions to reduce the state budget. She also implored state universities to freeze tuition for the upcoming school year. These efforts to prevent an increase in college tuition costs are necessary to provide for the state’s economic revival, which hinges upon establishing an educated workforce. With this goal in mind, Granholm’s budget cuts should be adopted, and the state must work with universities to keep the price of a Michigan education low.

During her address, Granholm suggested massive budget changes to counter the deficit predicted for the upcoming fiscal year. When the new fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, Michigan’s budget is anticipated to be short a staggering $1.6 billion. In response, Granholm suggested cuts to state agencies across the board, which would mean eliminating 10 of 16 state departments and funding for the state fair. She also requested that the State Officers Compensation Commission, which sets salaries for elected officials, cut salaries by 10 percent.

Though these cuts will probably mean job losses for some state employees, they are nonetheless necessary so that the state can control its budget. Now, more than ever, the state needs to decide which expenditures are vital to the well-being of the state — and cutting education funding just isn’t acceptable. The state needs higher education to be accessible and affordable to diversify Michigan’s economy with a workforce well educated in a variety of academic fields.

Cutting state departments is vastly preferable to the 7.1 percent across-the-board cut to public university funding that was suggested last month. These cuts, in conjunction with other plans to save money in the state’s corrections system, will hopefully prevent the state from cutting education funding.

And if the state is able to avoid cutting education funding, these universities will be more prepared to heed Granholm’s call to freeze tuition rates. Considering that tuition here at the University has increased 34.6 percent in the last four years alone, an end to the constantly increasing rate would be welcome to college students and their families. But this becomes an impossible goal to live up to if the state ends up slashing education funding. Granholm said that if colleges can freeze tuition rates, the state will reward them with funding. The University should feel compelled to take her up on this offer.

In her discussion of the state’s finances, Granholm also mentioned the pending federal stimulus package. She noted that, while there are projects that could benefit from the federal aid, the stimulus package isn’t a cure-all for Michigan’s problems. And she’s right — the federal stimulus package making its way through Congress is an uncertain prospect. And, no matter how much money Michigan gets, it won’t solve our overarching budget problems in the long term.

If our options are between cutting funding to higher education and scaling back on non-essential spending, we would much rather sacrifice the state fair.

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