Financial hardship has become an omnipresent condition throughout all levels of government in the United States, perhaps the only contemporary political issue both further- and farther-reaching than discussions of war. This unfortunate circumstance has forced many states to prune their respective budgets, victimizing a litany of publicly-funded programs and services. The latest causality of Michigan’s recession is subsidized higher education.
The state budget for the coming fiscal year significantly reduces the money allocated for Michigan’s state universities, and that economic shortfall will likely initiate University of Michigan budget cuts and a tuition increase. While all organizations and institutions that depend upon the state for funding will be disappointed by the meager appropriations, colleges and universities have legitimate gripes.
First, college tuition has steadily risen for a while and there are already too many students and families struggling to afford matriculation at a top-tier school. Second, various studies have convincingly demonstrated that money spent upfront on education is later exponentially returned to the economy as properly educated students become productive employees in all industries. Both of these points argue strongly for a more concerted effort from politicians and university administrators to stem the tide of rising tuition.
In a nation whose mythology promotes cherished values like education and individual productivity, how disingenuous and myopic are our leaders that they do not prioritize college, making it both inaccessible and sufficient?
The previously acknowledged capital problems have necessitated trimming Michigan’s budget, however it is incumbent upon legislators and Gov. Jennifer Granholm to preserve education subsidies as much as possible, instead trimming funding elsewhere. Admittedly, the task is not easy, but properly supporting colleges and universities is crucial so that students become educated and are not forced to carry the burden of massive debt upon graduation. This latter point is important, because already, the percentage of Americans saddled with significant debt – roughly seventy – is too high.
The University’s Administration and especially the regents are not devoid of culpability either. They must recommit themselves to scouring the budget and finding ways to reduce cost instead of raising tuition, a measure that has seemed to be their default remedy in the past. Much like the state budget, paring down the Universitry’s will be a stiff test and require creativity and a reprioritization of this school’s various missions and services. However, those tasks are needed so that the University can preserve its most important resource: bright students from all sorts of backgrounds.
Too often, administrators and politicians bemoan tuition hikes and then implement them anyway. No longer should such measures be tolerated and the latest budget crisis provides this duplicitous group yet another chance to prove themselves as something else.