A bill that would separate funding for the state’s three major research universities from the rest of the state’s public universities moved forward yesterday.
If the bill is approved by the state House of Representatives and the state Senate, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor will be funded separately.
The decision comes as a victory for the three institutions, who have pushed for the move. They say they need a separate funding system to account for the extra research they perform. The three universities conduct 95 percent of the state’s university research.
But many of the remaining 12 universities are against the bill, saying it will create separate tiers based on funding.
The bill proposes a 1 percent base funding increase for all of the state’s universities. Some universities are getting more for special programs or projects.
Phil Hanlon, associate provost at the University of Michigan, said the funding increase won’t change tuition. Hanlon said the money will likely go toward funding many initiatives and projects that were postponed until after the budget was finalized. But he said the money won’t be used at least until January, after the state’s first conference to estimate revenue.
Democratic State Rep. Pam Byrnes, whose district includes Ann Arbor, said she’s confident the bill will pass in the House and the Senate this week. She said even though the bill includes only a small funding increase, it was an important statement to set the schools apart for future state funding.
Gov. Granholm originally proposed a 2.4 percent increase for all state universities.
Cynthia Wilbanks, University vice president for government relations, said the University has been working with the legislature since last year to promote the bill.
“This is an important first step,” she said.
In September, the University Research Corridor – a coalition formed by the three research universities – released a report highlighting the 68,803 jobs and $12.8 billion the universities’ research brings to the state each year.
Wilbanks said the URC will continue to work with the state in the future, but it has no specific plans yet.
“We’re just a fledgling effort at this point,” she said.
State legislators have until tomorrow night to pass a final budget plan if they want to avoid another government shutdown. As of yesterday evening, foster care, adoption and justice services for teens were still being debated.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.