Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed a budget Thursday for Michigan’s 2003-2004 fiscal year. Due to the financial crisis she inherited from the previous administration, Granholm was forced to cut many programs. While cuts are an inevitable part of shrinking budgets, some of the cuts Granholm has proposed would disproportionately affect state education and the arts.
The proposal requests a 6.5 percent decrease in funding for higher education. Added to this year’s previous 3.5 percent cut, a total 10 percent cut in higher education would create a serious obstacle for students and universities. This drastic loss of funding for higher education would likely lead to large tuition hikes and lessen the availability of student aid, both of which would be crushing for students already struggling to survive under the current tuition rate and financial aid system. To eliminate one tenth of the funding for higher education restricts students from working- and even middle-class families from furthering their educations at the highest-quality institutions.
Granholm also proposed to decrease Michigan Merit Award scholarships from their current $2,500 value to only $500, again proving injurious to financially-strained college students. Merit Scholarships encourage high school students who otherwise may not have the resources to continue their education. Though a $500 incentive is still welcome, in the face of the projected rise in tuition and reduction of financial aid funding, bigger scholarships will be increasingly necessary.
If adopted by the state Legislature, the proposal will also decrease funding for adult education by 74 percent. This dramatic cut would leave high school dropouts and graduates who do not go straight to college with little hope of a second chance at a high school education. The only way to make up for a loss this large would be to pass expenses on to students via tuition. Granholm’s proposal would also lessen funding to arts programs statewide by 50 percent. Already, the money offered to local arts programs is meager. Often the first to suffer under local penny-pinching school boards, these programs foster creativity and offer forums for cultural expression. These programs are essential to the health of any community, particularly with respect to schools.
The proposed budget would also decrease funds for the Life Sciences Corridor from $1 billion to only $20 million, an overwhelming setback for this initiative, focused on scientific important research. The University is currently the nation’s leading recipient of federal research dollars. Cutting funds for this initiative will threaten the state’s valuable economic and industrial standing in this field.
There is no doubt that cutbacks are necessary to balance Michigan’s debt-ridden budget. Still, Granholm’s proposed solutions have some serious drawbacks. The state’s economic situation necessitates cuts across the board, but education and arts funding should not be the hardest hit.