YPSILANTI — Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke at Eastern Michigan University yesterday as part of her statewide tour of college campuses in an effort to restore the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
The Promise Scholarship — which awarded students $500 to $4,000 based on performance on a merit exam — was eliminated from the state’s budget last month. Since she signed the final budget bills that effectively cut the scholarship, Granholm has begun lobbying for the program’s return, an effort that includes her current tour.
To a standing-room-only crowd at the EMU Student Center, Granholm vehemently emphasized the necessity of maintaining higher education funding in the state. She said that in order to transform the state’s dire economy, workers must be better educated.
“If we double the number of skilled adults who’ve got training and vocational certification, then we’ll be the most educated state in the nation,” Granholm said. “If we’re the most educated state in the nation, we will have the most robust economy in the nation.”
Granholm urged state representatives to approve changes to the Earned Income Tax Credit that would provide the revenue necessary to revive the Promise Scholarship. These changes would free up $120 million to be used at the state’s discretion. Granholm’s pitch is that these dollars should go directly to funding the scholarship.
The state legislature is currently in a two-week recess for the fall deer hunting season and the Thanksgiving holiday.
Students from Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan also spoke before the crowd at the event, explaining how the cut of the Promise Scholarship is making it difficult for them to pay for college.
LSA junior Nathaniel Root said he is going to have to take classes this summer to stay on track for graduation because he needed to take less classes and work more hours this semester to pay for his tuition, books and rent.
“I have to work almost 20 hours a week now as a full-time student,” Root said, “which has led me to drop a class, which is leaving me academically behind in order for me to be on the pre-medical track.”
The Office of the Vice President provided a bus for students from the University to travel to Ypsilanti to listen to the governor speak. MSA Business Rep. Jason Raymond said that about 20 people from the University attended the event.
Raymond was part of a roundtable discussion the governor held with student leaders from several universities behind closed doors. He said Granholm made a few brief remarks and then took questions from the students.
“Basically, these questions focused on why the Promise Scholarship was cut,” Raymond said, “what were the contingency plans to potentially refund it and what her view of the whole situation was.”
LSA Student Government Rep. Carly Goldberg was among the University students who traveled to Ypsilanti on the provided bus. She said the Michigan Promise Scholarship had significantly helped her family in the past, and that it’s a huge burden on her parents now that it has been cut.
“There were $3,000 I could’ve gotten that was taken away,” Goldberg said. “My sister is coming here next year so those $4,000 that she could’ve gotten, my parents won’t get either. So that’s $7,000. It makes a difference.”
LSA Student Government Treasurer Steven Benson, a former Promise Scholarship recipient, said he believed the cut could cause fewer students to enroll at state universities.
“A lot of people are going to have a hard time paying for college and even if it’s only $4,000 it can definitely help. But, now it’s gone and students that don’t have financial resources now need to look elsewhere for scholarships, so it’s kind of unfortunate. “
Granholm visited a handful of colleges and universities across the state last week — including Michigan State University — and will visit a few more this week.
A press release issued by the Governor’s office last week said she was going to come to Ann Arbor to speak at the University of Michigan.
But a representative from the Governor’s office told The Michigan Daily late last week that the governor’s visit has since been removed from the agenda.
“I can’t get to everybody, but I’m completely supportive and appreciate the fact that students were here from the University of Michigan and the leadership from University of Michigan was here,” Granholm said in an interview after the event. “I’m very grateful for that.”
University spokeswoman Deborah Greene said the governor’s office never formally made contact with the University to plan the visit.
The governor’s office said the announcement was made before the governor’s schedule was finalized and a trip to Ann Arbor simply would not fit into her plans.