All of Michigan”s 15 public universities should plan to see flat budgets for the 2002-2003 fiscal year under Gov. John Engler”s budget proposal, according to an anonymous source within the governor”s administration, as told to WWJ news radio yesterday.
The Feb. 7 unveiling of Engler”s budget proposal before House and Senate appropriations committees will kick off a several-month process in which the governor and legislators wrangle over funding levels for state programs. Most programs are expected to see cuts in their funding due to a decline in state revenue, which is blamed mostly on the present economic downturn.
When asked if it were true, Engler spokesman Matt Resch would not confirm or deny the report, explaining that the budget is still being formulated.
When the University of Michigan received a 1.5 percent increase in funding last year the Board of Regents raised tuition 6.5 percent for most students. It is unclear what next year”s tuition will be. Prior to any announcements, expectations among many involved in the budget process were that the best funding the University would receive would be a funding identical to last year”s budget.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson praised Engler for his proposal and added, “I think it reflects the governor”s value of higher education that he would be willing to propose a flat budget, or no increase, as opposed to a cut.”
Some schools raised tuition dramatically for the current academic year, although the University”s tuition increase was the lowest among the 15. Central Michigan University”s proposal for next year”s tuition included a 28 percent increase. But Peterson said the University”s would be nowhere near as high.
“We”re not going to see the tuition increases we”ve seen at other universities but it”s too early to know what it will be,” she said.
Rep. John Hansen (D-Dexter), ranking Democrat on the House Education Committee, noted, “when universities” costs go up and their revenues don”t go up, you can expect a tuition increase.” He also pointed out that the zero percent increase is not adjusted for inflation.
The universities had been lobbying the governor and Legislature for a zero percent increase, said Glenn Stevens, executive director of the Presidents Council of the State Universities of Michigan.
“We made a very strong case for a continuation budget,” Stevens said. “When we met with the governor on the grounds given the state”s economy and given the circumstances of revenue, that”s a reasonable position (for Engler) to take.”
Following the state budget director”s address to the House and Senate appropriations committees, the Senate”s higher education appropriations subcommittee will begin hearings on funding the following week.
The chairman of that subcommittee, Sen. John Schwarz (R-Battle Creek), however, cautioned that there is no certainty that the University will actually see a continuation budget. “That”s the best we can hope for,” he said. “There”s some things to be worked out that are pretty significant.”
Negotiations with the governor”s office, he added, are ongoing.