|Higher Ed Leaders Push Again Against Cuts|
With what is becoming their calling card message, higher education officials Tuesday equated advanced degrees with economic prosperity, telling lawmakers on the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee that tuition freezes and cuts to state funding won't allow them to continue to attract money and jobs to Michigan.
This week, the subcommittee's third hearing this session, presidents of the three major research universities testified, reiterating that the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University's alliance is a unique and powerful tool under the state's belt in economic development but one that needs to be nurtured with continued support from the state budget.
"Our unique consortium is a testament to Michigan's past investment in higher education, which hasn't been possible in recent years, but it's critical we reverse the recent trend where we've been at the bottom in terms of higher ed investment," said Wayne State President Jay Noren.
While leaders of the three universities offered many details about the economic value their research adds to Michigan, which amounted to $138 billion in 2006, they didn't go into detail, as some expected they might, about a so-called counterproposal to Governor Jennifer Granholm's budget that would trim 3 percent from higher education in exchange for a piece of $448 million in federal stimulus money.
Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said there has been a brief meeting about such a proposal but plans are not in the final stages.
He said during the budget hearing he doesn't think lawmakers will restore the cuts made by the governor to the budget before passage, "but one can only hope."
As for the stimulus money, if it were granted, it would still only be enough to restore funding levels to FY 08-09 levels and wouldn't account for inflation.
Mr. Boulus said that if Michigan wants to become more prosperous, it must again become a leader in higher education investment, joining ranks with states such as Connecticut, which has the highest per capita income in the nation and third highest educational attainment ranking, compared to Michigan, which has the 26th highest per capita income and ranks 28th in educational attainment.
As the only state to decrease appropriations to higher education, Mr. Boulus' group ranks Michigan last for its divestment in education with a 5.1 percent reduction in higher education funding over the last five years compared to an average increase in spending nationwide on higher ed of 24 percent.