University President Mark Schlissel spent Tuesday afternoon in Lansing meeting with members of the state Senate and House Appropriations Subcommittees on Higher Education.
Schlissel and several other state university leaders, including the chancellors of the University’s Flint and Dearborn campuses, addressed Gov. Rick Snyder’s higher education budget recommendation during the meeting, with a focus on his proposed funding to higher education.
Schlissel voiced appreciation for Snyder’s proposed 2 percent increase in higher education funding and the state’s continued interest in the University’s work.
In the first budget of Snyder’s term, colleges and universities saw a 15 percent cut to higher education funding. Though Snyder has increased funding levels incrementally each year, the cuts came during a time when higher education funding already faced a declining trend. University President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman frequently made similar trips to Lansing to emphasize the importance of state funding.
Schlissel noted that Michigan residents support higher education as “a pathway to prosperity,” a belief he observed while traveling around the state last summer before beginning his term as University president.
During Tuesday’s meeting, he said he was impressed by the state’s beauty, history and focus on the future. He added that residents’ pride in state universities and colleges was apparent over the course of the trip, during which he met with leaders of startup companies born out of University research and a handful of local non-profits.
Schlissel stressed the University’s deep connection to the state, highlighting its commitment to meeting 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all in-state students. He said that commitment has made the University more affordable than it was five years ago for in-state students that demonstrate financial need.
This was a point Coleman made in a February 2013 speech to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. Snyder’s budget proposal that year also provided for modest funding increases for public state universities; Coleman said this allowed for continuing improvement of the University’s financial aid programs.
“Only one (University) budget item is sacrosanct and that is financial aid; here we are adding dollars,” she said. “This year alone, we invested $137 million for financial aid. We are very, very deliberate when targeting savings on campus — the kind of precision you might experience in an advanced course in nano-engineering or microsurgery.”
Schlissel also cited the University’s collaborations with the state’s automotive, technology, urban planning and insurance industries. For example, he noted the University is currently working with government and education officials to build a 32-acre mobility transformation center to develop automated, driverless vehicles.