Gov. Jennifer Granholm asked for a 3.2 percent increase in state funding to the University of Michigan in the budget proposal she released yesterday.

The proposed budget would increase state funding to every university in Michigan by at least 2.3 percent. Universities would receive more based on the amount of research they conduct, the graduation rate and the percentage of low-income students.

The University of Michigan and Wayne State University would each receive a 3.2 percent increase based on their amount of commercialized research. Michigan State University would receive a 2.7 percent increase.

Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president for government relations, said she’s “not enamored” with the idea of incentives, but it’s something universities have to deal with. She said while she understands the legislature’s intentions, incentives usually vary from year to year, making it difficult for the University to make long-term plans based on state funds.

“One size doesn’t really fit all,” she said.

But Wilbanks said she’s optimistic about the potential funding increase.

“A 3-percent increase is welcome news,” she said.

Last year Granholm proposed a 2.5 percent increase in appropriations to all universities, but they only received a 1-percent increase.

The proposal also suggests that universities should use a portion of the newly allocated funds to keep tuition increases as small as possible.

Wilbanks said she’s unsure how the new budget might affect tuition. She said discussions are underway to determine the University’s budget, which should be finalized in June or July. Last summer the University Board of Regents raised tuition 7.4 percent.

Granholm’s proposal still has a long way to go before it becomes law. It has to be negotiated and passed by Senate and House committees before being passed by both houses of the state legislature.

Wilbanks said she was pleased to see the University, along with Michigan State University and Wayne State University, recognized in a separate section of the proposal as the state’s three major research universities. But the three universities are still pushing to have their appropriations split into a bill separate from the state’s 12 other public universities. Those schools have resisted the move, saying it would put them on a lower tier.

The proposal also includes an increase in Michigan Promise Grants, the Michigan Merit Award Program and the Tuition Incentive Program.

The $43.6 million increase for higher education was made possible in part by a $350 million surplus from the 2007 fiscal year, said Leslee Fritz, a spokeswoman for the State Budget Department.

Just under a third of the surplus will be saved for a rainy day fund. The rest of the money is going to the state’s general fund. Fritz said the extra money eased the pressures of increasing costs.

Fritz said she doesn’t anticipate that this year’s budget process will be as contentious as last year’s. Legislators negotiated down to the wire on Sept. 30, failing to agree on a budget by the time the new fiscal year started on Oct. 1. After the state government shut down for four hours, they agreed on a continuation budget for a month before reaching a compromise. That was due in large part to a tax increase proposed by Granholm and revenue shortfalls that required deep cuts in the budget.

“We’ll have our disagreements, but it won’t be anywhere near what it was last year,” said Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt). “The governor very clearly does not want to create the angst and the vitriol of last year.”

FUNDING HIGHER ED

Gov. Granholm proposed different funding increases for each of the state’s universities based on their research, graduation rates and enrollment of low-income students. Each university is guaranteed at least a 2.3 percent funding increase.

-University of Michigan – 3.2 percent increase

Michigan State University – 2.7 percent increase

Wayne State University – 3.2 percent increase

Lake Superior State University – 6.2 percent increase

Eastern Michigan University – 2.3 percent increase

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