The University would see a modest funding increase under a funding formula proposed last week by House Republicans compared to the governor’s current budget.
The Republican plan would give about $1.3 million more to the University’s Ann Arbor branch — a 0.4 percent increase over Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s higher education budget for next year. Of the 15 public universities considered in the formula, 11 would see funding increases and four would lose funding.
Proposed by Republican members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education, the formula would determine how much money universities receive from the state, based on enrollment, degrees awarded and the amount of federally funded research conducted.
University Vice President for Government Affairs Cynthia Wilbanks acknowledged the formula’s increase, but she said the gap between it and Granholm’s proposal may close next year if the governor’s budget restores the $30 million higher education cut she made in March.
The University received $141 million for research this year, but would have received $371 million without the 40 percent cap on the amount of matching funds a university can receive from the state. The University performed 63 percent of all federally funded research conducted by Michigan universities, according to data from the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency. The next largest recipient of federal funding was Michigan State University, with 17.4 percent of research conducted.
Wilbanks said the cap seems to work against economic growth that is tied to research.
“Perceptually the idea of a cap appears to run counter to the other goals of state policy-makers to try to generate additional economic activity. There are three research universities in the state — the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State — and we are all expected to be a very robust engine of economic activity, very much related to our research activity — the two are not disconnected,” she said.
Rep. Jerry Kooiman (R-Grand Rapids), who serves on the subcommittee, said the cap is necessary and can be changed in the future.
“U-M is the big dog in terms of research dollars and we don’t have enough money in our budget,” Kooiman said.
Rep. Rich Brown (D-Bessemer), who also serves on the committee, said he was not pleased with the formula.
“In order to get money to some universities it takes money away from other universities. I think the effect it will have on some universities in the state will be very, very detrimental,” Brown said.
Brown said the research cap was set arbitrarily because the University is too successful in drawing federal research money. Brown was not sure when the formula would come to a vote in the subcommittee, but said he and his fellow Democrats may try to change the cap and use other indicators for the formula.
Enrollment would be weighted to give more money for in-state students over their out-of-state counterparts. Each full-time in-state student would be worth $2,190 to universities and each of their out-of-state peers would be worth $1,642. Wilbanks said the University and other schools play a large draw for out-of-state students to come, live and work in Michigan, adding to the state’s economy. Wilbanks said she worried that if the formula was adopted it could mean stagnant funding from the state.
The degrees awarded to students will also be evaluated on a weighed scale: engineering, technology and healthcare-related degrees will be worth twice as much as natural science or agriculture degrees and four-times as much as general studies degrees.
Wilbanks said if the formula became law, state support for the University could become stagnant, but that there should be understanding towards the formula.
“I think we should all be sympathetic to looking at a rational way of looking at the issues here. What looks rational to one institution may look irrational to another,” Wilbanks said.