The state Senate has passed a bill that would grant each of the state’s 15 universities a 3-percent funding increase, a slight boost from the 1-percent increase the University received last year.
In early February, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed a plan that would grant appropriations to each school based on how much research it conducts, its graduation rate and the number of low-income students enrolled.
Under that proposal, the University would receive a 3.2-percent funding increase, slightly higher than the Senate’s current plan.
State funding makes up about one quarter of the University’s budget.
Last month, University President Mary Sue Coleman addressed the Senate Appropriations Committee with Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon and Wayne State University President Irvin Reid to ask that the three schools be considered separately from the state’s other 12 schools.
The three universities, who have formed the University Research Corridor, are lobbing the state to receive a higher level of funding than Michigan’s other colleges.
The Senate’s proposed funding increase, passed Tuesday by a 37-1 vote, doesn’t grant that request.
Cynthia Wilbanks, the University’s vice president of government relations, said she wasn’t surprised that the Senate’s bill didn’t include Granholm’s incentive proposals but was encouraged by the Senate’s decision to maintain the 3-percent increase suggested by Granholm.
“Maintaining a 3-percent increase was a good sign that the Senate believes that higher education needs to have a renewed level of support,” she said.
Coleman, Simon and Reid will testify before the House Appropriations Committee on April 23, Wilbanks said.
Sen. Liz Brater (D-Ann Arbor), who voted for the funding proposal, said the Senate decided to grant a uniform 3-percent increase because lawmakers had questions about how to calculate some of the incentives Granholm proposed.
Brater said she’d like to see a change in the way schools measure graduation rates, because transfer students are not included.
“It’s just not a good measure,” she said, explaining that graduation rate should be evaluated on a student-by-student basis rather than at the school level.
Brater said funding was proposed in one bill rather than two because many of the state’s smaller schools oppose the research corridor’s proposal, claiming it creates a two-tiered education system.
Cheryl Rolland, a spokeswoman for Western Michigan University, said Western supports allocating funds through one bill instead of two because each university makes contributions to the state, and all of them are recovering from budget cuts.
“We have been firmly supportive of the idea of having one single funding bill for all 15 public universities,” she said.
Last year, the state House of Representatives passed two separate appropriations bills after the Senate passed only one.
The bills went to a conference committee, eventually becoming one bill with two parts that granted separate funding to the research corridor universities.
Brater said something similar could happen this year if the House chooses to push for separate bills.
Rep. Pam Byrnes, whose district includes North Campus, is a member of the House Appropriations committee. She said she hasn’t yet decided whether to push for one bill or two.
Byrnes said if she recommends one bill, though, she will push for it to have two separate sections.
She said the House will begin hearing testimony on April 18 and hopes to pass a bill by mid-May.