March 02, 2011, 2:18 PM/The Grand Rapids Press
By Dave Murray
Allowing state community colleges to offer four-year degrees would be unnecessary duplication, Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas told lawmakers today.
Haas testified before the state House Higher Education Subcommittee Wednesday morning and later appeared before a state Senate committee to answer questions about funding and academics.
Haas recently proposed that college funding be linked to meeting state goals for higher education, and told the House committee he's worried that state aid continues to shrink, forcing tuition increases.
“We are doing everything the Cherry Commission asked of us: access, affordability, relevant degrees for today’s job market, and continuous quality improvement,” he told representatives.
But Haas also said he was concerned about what he considered “unnecessary duplication by public bodies, which the Legislature has asked government at all levels to avoid.”
“I feel certain that if a state representative came through the front door of the Capitol with a bill to create the 16th public university, they’d be shown the door.
“Yes, I’ve heard the talk around the Dome: We can’t afford the universities we’ve got now. Yet soon you’ll be looking at a proposal to permit community colleges offer four-year degrees – permitting through the back door something you wouldn’t let through the front. And trust me: no matter what proponents say, there will soon be 28 additional four year colleges in Michigan.
“There is no money for this duplication – you don’t have it, and I doubt the taxpayers will vote more tax millage for it. That leaves only the students to pay the extra bill.
“And, happily, this duplication is unnecessary. The public universities have pledged to offer any needed four-year degree, on the campus of any community college, anywhere in the state. Give us the chance to fulfill our promise and this will be a problem that solves itself.”
Haas later told state senators that funding for universities should be based on goals set by state leaders. Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed state aid for public universities be cut by 22 percent, or 15 percent if the schools agree not to raise tuition more than 7 percent.
“I need to know what the state of Michigan expects from its public universities in the years ahead,” he said.
“Do you want universities that can continue to accept additional students above current enrollments? Do you want universities that remain involved in economic development projects? Will you encourage research and public service? Do you believe that more Michigan high school students should continue their education after graduation?
“What are your views on in-state and out-of-state enrollment? What about retention and graduation rates? Does it matter where alumni settle after graduation? Should appropriations be adjusted when university enrollments change?
“What is the proper ratio of tuition v. taxpayer support? Will the state sustain its maintenance of effort?
“In my view, Michigan needs more college graduates, more research, and more economic development; we seek a partnership with the state that is rational, predictable, and sustainable.
"When you and your colleagues advise universities what you believe are the priorities for our state's future, we will then be in a better position to find funding solutions together.”
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