Although the Michigan state legislature has given the University a cold shoulder for more than half a decade, the University Board of Regents approved Thursday a request for a 10 percent increase in appropriations from the state for the University’s Ann Arbor campus for the upcoming 2010 fiscal year.

The request for an additional $36 million was approved by a unanimous vote at the board’s monthly meeting held in the Fleming Administration Building.

Though the University asks to ramp up funding nearly every year, the cash-strapped state government has rarely said yes. According to the University’s 2008 Financial Report, state funding has declined in each year from 2004 to 2008, except in 2007. The University was hit with about a 10 percent reduction in 2004.

During the meeting, Provost Teresa Sullivan said the University is asking for the increase to stabilize its budget and “make progress” toward restoring the $36 million reduction that the University has seen in its state appropriation since the fiscal year of 2002.

“In our request, we emphasize academic excellence and student access and affordability, as well as the importance of the University of Michigan’s role in the state of Michigan’s economy,” she said to the crowd of University officials at the meeting.

University President Mary Sue Coleman said the state’s appropriation trails behind those in the rest of the country.

“We are now at the lowest appropriation per student of any state in the country for higher education,” she said in an interview after the meeting. “I mean, Michigan has dropped off the map.”

Sullivan said in an interview after the meeting that the University relies strictly on state appropriations and tuition revenues to fund its educational programs.

“Tuition and state appropriations together make up what funds, all the money we have for educating our students,” she said. “It affects everything that affects education.”

Political Science Prof. Jenna Bednar, who teaches a University class called “American State Governments,” said the state legislature is unlikely to approve the increase as it faces mounting financial strain.

Bednar said the state government practices “fund accounting,” which means that most of its revenues are already dedicated to particular expenditures. Anything left over is put into a general fund that supports discretionary programs, one of which is higher education.

“When (the state’s) revenues get squeezed, like they definitely are now, it has to turn to its general fund to find ways to reduce its spending,” said Bednar, who was not at the meeting. “Higher education just sits there as a fairly easy target.”

Coleman said that while she recognizes the state’s economic troubles, the state legislature should view the increase in higher education funding as an investment for Michigan’s young workers to stay in the state and help develop new industries.

“We know it’s going to take time, but we think it’s an important strategic move for the state to make,” she said.

Cia Segerlind, the chief of staff for State Rep. Pam Byrnes (D–Chelsea), who usually sponsors the higher education bill in the state House, said their office couldn’t comment on the budget proposal because they hadn’t seen it.

She said budget proposals of this nature usually take about a week to get to the state government’s budget office and the representative’s office.

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