Public universities in Michigan will see a 2.8 percent cut in funding from the state, according to the higher education budget passed by the Michigan legislature Tuesday.

Pending Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s signature, this decrease will result in about a $9 million loss for the University.

Down from the current fiscal year, next year’s budget will allocate about $1.567 billion toward higher education. The 2009-2010 fiscal year budget appropriated about $1.612 billion for the state’s public universities and colleges, State Rep. Rebekah Warren wrote in an e-mail interview with The Michigan Daily on Monday. This represented 3.63 percent of the state’s total budget for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which was $44.4 billion, according to Warren.

The cut in funding is part of an effort to minimize the state’s $484 million dollar deficit.

But despite the decrease in funding, Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president for government relations, wrote in an e-mail interview yesterday that the University has taken necessary steps in preparation for the decreased appropriations.

“As we have done for the last several years, the Board of Regents adopted a University budget back in June,” Wilbanks wrote. “At that time we contemplated a possible reduction from the state for fiscal year ’11.”

University officials were cautious in drawing up the budget for the next fiscal year because they speculated that there would be cuts to higher education appropriations, Wilbanks wrote.

“It was based on what we knew at the time, and we felt it was a solid position to take, given that there was still uncertainty as to how the eventual budget decisions would be made,” Wilbanks wrote.

Wilbanks added that the state House’s higher education budget and Granholm’s recommendations originally called for the same level of funding as the current fiscal year, while the state Senate’s earlier version called for a reduction of 3.1 percent.

Though these cuts may seem drastic, Warren wrote in the e-mail that the state of Michigan finds itself in a better position than most others.

“Michigan is unique compared to other states in that we have endured budget shortfalls for many consecutive years, and therefore have already made many of the painful budget cuts that other states are just starting to confront,” Warren wrote.

But State Rep. Joan Bauer (D–Lansing), chair of the Higher Education Appropriations Committee, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily last night that she is disappointed in the decrease in funding for state universities.

“I’m not happy with this budget because I think we should be putting money into education, not cutting it,” Bauer said.

When the state reduces higher education funding, Bauer said it directly impacts students.

“Every time we cut more from the state budget, (universities) either have to cut more programs or raise tuition to try to keep quality service at that level,” she said.

Wilbanks wrote that moving forward her office will continue to consistently lobby legislators “to maximize any opportunities we can with respect to higher education funding.”

“From the beginning to the end, we are actively involved in talking to the state legislators most directly involved in the higher education budget,” Wilbanks wrote.

While the state appropriations to higher education will probably be decreased overall for the 2011 fiscal year, the amount of money for scholarships increased over those funds in the current budget.

Bauer said legislators took special consideration to renew the state’s commitment to help students fund their education through an increase in scholarship money and financial aid. Lawmakers included about $100 million in scholarship and financial aid appropriations in the 2011 fiscal year budget, according to Bauer.

“What we were able to do in this budget was to increase overall financial aid by about 10 percent,” she said.

This boost in scholarship and financial aid money comes after the Michigan Promise Scholarship was cut during last year’s budget negotiations. Based on a high school merit exam, the Michigan Promise Scholarship previously awarded between $400 and $5,000 to 96,000 Michigan students, including 6,096 University students. The scholarship program cost the state about $100 million.

Yesterday, the higher education budget passed 31-6 in the Republican-controlled state Senate, while the state House, which has a Democratic majority, approved the budget by 61-43, according to The Associated Press.

A “boiler plate” issue, as Bauer put it, was whether or not universities should be forced to report their embryonic stem cell research to the state. As part of the higher education budget, state universities won’t be required to report the information.

“We did not feel it belongs in the higher education bill,” Bauer said. “It did hold us up for a while. (The House and Senate) had very different opinions on that.”

The state legislature has already approved the majority of the state’s budgets, though several — including the transportation and human services budgets — need to be approved before the Oct. 1 deadline, according to the AP.

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