The State House of Representatives Appropriations Committee yesterday approved last week”s recommendations of the higher education subcommittee to allocate funding to Michigan”s 15 public universities.
The approval includes a 2 percent funding increase for the University of Michigan. The bill was approved without substantial amendment by a 20-8 vote. The majority consisted of 16 Republicans and four Democrats and the minority consisted of seven Democrats and one Republican. One member of the committee, Rep. Patricia Godchaux (R-Birmingham), abstained from voting.
Although the vote total may appear to indicate that the bill will sail through the House next week, expectations are quite the opposite. “There will be a floor fight on this bill,” promised Rep. Keith Stallworth (D-Detroit), who voted against the bill in committee.
Todd Harcek, chief of staff for committee chairman Marc Shulman (R-West Bloomfield), said although he was “fairly confident” that some form of the bill would pass through the House next week, it would not occur without lively debate. “There will be several attempts to amend it substantially but I do not know whether they will succeed,” he said.
Stallworth, who also voted against the bill in the higher education subcommittee, said the bill approved yesterday did not appropriate funds in the best manner. “It assumes the cost to educate every undergraduate is the same whether they are full-time or part time students, or whether they are studying liberal arts or nuclear physics,” he said.
“It addresses only the gap in funding between the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University,” he added.
Michigan State would receive a 7 percent increase under the bill.
Rep. Charles LaSata (R-St. Joseph), the vice chairman of the committee, said the disparity in funding increases between the University and Michigan State is justified. “MSU is still significantly behind U of M in per pupil grants from the state,” he said.”Two percent to U of M is much higher dollar-wise than to other universities.”
The most substantial amendment the committee approved was that of Rep. Mike Pumford of Newaygo, the only Republican to vote against the bill, to recommend a workgroup be formed to study the tier system under which funds are allocated. Some, such as Stallworth, have said the tier system does not allow for fair apportionment of funds.