The state of Michigan received a failing grade in college affordability study released Tuesday.
The study, published by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, gave F’s to 48 other states, with California receiving the only passing grade. It received a C.
Titled Measuring Up, the study found that families are dishing out a greater portion of their income to pay for their kids’ college educations. It said low-income families are impacted the most by rising tuition rates, with the average allocating 48 percent of their income to pay tuition for four-year public colleges.
The number of flunking states increased from two years ago, when the study placed 43 states on the failing list.
While University officials agreed rising tuition and college costs are a concern, they were skeptical of the report’s grades.
“When you give 49 out of 50 states a failing grade, maybe there’s something wrong with the way it’s calculated,” said Michael Boulus, executive director for the President’s Council, a lobbying group for the state’s public universities.
With a decrease in taxpayer aid, Michigan public universities have increased tuition costs over the past several years. In 2006, the University raised the undergraduate tuition rate 12.3 percent for in-state students. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the University increased tuition 5.6 percent.
To combat rising costs, the University Board of Regents approved in June a 10.8 percent increase in undergraduate financial aid for this year — granting $107.6 million from the general fund for financial aid compared to the $99 million allocated the previous year.
University Provost Teresa Sullivan said in a video posted on CTools that the University realizes families are facing unforeseen financial problems due to job loss, foreclosures and business declines. In the video, Sullivan urged students to seek financial help from the Office of Financial Aid to alleviate tuition costs.
“We know some students will need additional assistance to cover their costs, and the University should be the first place you turn to for loans and advice,” she said in the video message.
Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president for government relations, said the state has worked hard to increase financial aid to the University, but state support has declined in dollars and overall percentages.
“The state as a whole has faced some pretty dramatic economic problems, and the colleges and universities have not been immune to the resulting cuts taking place,” she said.
Wilbanks said the fact that so many states have fallen into the same category as Michigan is troubling.
“Unfortunately, 48 states are facing similar situations with respect to state revenues,” she said. “The universities are working harder and harder to reduce their costs in order to minimize the amount of tuition increases necessary to provide an excellent education.”
Wilbanks noted the University has increased its private support through fundraisers such as the Michigan Difference Campaign, which has raised more than $3 billion.
Boulus added that the University’s tuition is increasing mainly because the state has cut financial support for seven consecutive years.
“State appropriations have been going down considerably,” Boulus said. “We owe to our students the best education we can provide for you. We put our students first, and we’re not getting the support from the state.”
In the report, state colleges were also evaluated on the participation and preparation of students. Results for these categories were better — no state failed, and half received As and Bs.
The study gave the state of Michigan a C for both preparation and participation, stating “college opportunities for Michigan residents are only fair.” Results found 32 percent of young black Michigan residents and 45 percent of young white Michigan residents were enrolled in college.
Michigan received a C+ for the completion of degrees, with 55 percent of college students earning a bachelor’s degree in six years. The state’s highest grade was a B+ for the benefits of having a highly educated population.