Certain members of the state Legislature are currently working on a proposal that would forbid the state government from cutting funding to public universities that keep their tuition hikes below 8.5 percent this promise is little more than an act of gubernatorial self-promotion. Proposal drafters chose words carefully to make it appear that Engler was finally trying to do something nice for Michigan”s always needy public universities, but vowing “not to cut” precious state dollars is hardly a gesture of goodwill. The legislature should not vote to pass this bill.

In the words of Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.), “If we have consecutive years of no increases and tuition held at a minimum, the institutions will be faced with the responsibility of cutting academic programs or cutting faculty and staff.” This would happen for a number of reasons.

Public universities like the University of Michigan face numerous cost increases each year: Keeping technological resources up to date, repairing old buildings, building new ones and keeping up with the rate of inflation all necessitate greater cash flow from the University. In order to keep up with increased costs of operation, both in terms of facilities and academics, the University has to get this extra money from somewhere. Donations from billionaire alums notwithstanding, the money comes from two places: Increased state funding and tuition hikes.

The larger the gap between the state funding increase and the rate of inflation (with the funding increase being smaller than inflation), the more students will have to pay in tuition. Just this past year, the University was forced to respond to a measly 1.5 percent state increase (well below the rate of inflation) with a 6.5 percent tuition increase.

The wording of this proposal suggests that the government is making some kind of noble sacrifice by not decreasing funds when in fact it would be doing a grave disservice to higher education by not significantly increasing funds yearly.

The University is a public school it is the state”s responsibility to fund public schools such that they are accessible to as many students as possible.

If this proposal comes to fruition, there will be nothing to stop the state government from forcing students to foot the bill for large improvements to their universities in the form of hefty tuition payments then withholding its own funding when tuition soars too high. The argument that universities should receive less money from the state if they collect more in tuition does not stand up here if schools need more money to provide the best possible affordable education, the state should step in and provide it.

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