Following Michigan Gov. John Engler”s recommendation last week that the University receive no base increase in fuding, the state Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education met at Concordia College Friday to discuss ways to obtain more funding.
The proposal, originally offered by state Budget Director Mary Lannoye, gave a 1.5 percent increase to the University. That increase was upped to 2 percent in the House of Representatives. That bill passed the full House and is now in the hands of the Senate subcommittee.
University President Lee Bollinger was the first of several local college heads to testify before the committee. Bollinger described the financial success of the University to committee members. Bollinger said he was proud the University”s average tuition increase per year over the last six years has been only 3.3 percent. He also discussed the current expansion projects, including the development of the Life Sciences Institute and plans for new residence halls.
Bollinger said the University required additional funds to prevent high-quality professors from going to Ivy League schools, which have more funds with which to recruit professors.
“Our concerns should be how do we preserve a great university such as the University of Michigan as the wealth of the great private universities has skyrocketed,” he said.
Bollinger said a zero percentage increase for the University would force a substantial tuition increase on students. “We just don”t know exactly but I would think something between 5 and 10 percent,” he said.
Members of the committee have expressed optimism that additional sources of revenue can be sought for funding increases. Some possible sources of revenue, such as those mentioned by committee chairman John Schwarz (R-Battle Creek), include a repeal of the tuition tax credit, money from Michigan”s settlement with tobacco companies, extra money from the MEAP Merit Scholarship Trust and money from the state”s surplus revenue fund.
In an effort to build a case among his fellow legislators for using these sources, Schwarz asked Bollinger if he supported using those sources. Bollinger said he did.
Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.) echoed Schwarz”s comments regarding finding additional sources of revenue. “Some of the institutions have forecast that if they get a 2 percent increase the tuition increase could be as high as 10 to 12 percent. That”s unacceptable, so we need to do an appropriate appropriation.”
For now, it seems that most major budget decisions are on hold until the May 15 Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference, when budget revenue projections will be updated.