State funding cut for universities could lead to tuition increases for students at U-M, EMU
Tara Mallington came to Eastern Michigan University on Thursday morning to meet a friend for lunch.
Mallington, a high school senior, isn’t sure where she’ll attend college next year, but she knows she'll pay more for her first year of school than her friend did her first year at Eastern.
“I think colleges are going to have to jack up tuition,” she said after hearing of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal to cut higher education funding by 15 percent. “They’re going to have to. It’s going to suck. I might have to live at home because of the cost.”
Students aren’t the only ones predicting higher tuition rates because of the cuts outlined Thursday.
EMU President Susan Martin expressed concern that the university might have to go that route to make up nearly $15 million it's going to lose under the plan.
“We’ll strive to keep it as low as possible,” she said. Last year, EMU implemented a "0, 0, 0" campaign, which froze tuition, room and board, and fees for students.
EMU Regent Jim Stapleton, chairman of the finance committee, affirmed those words.
Anyone who knows Gov. Synder, and I do, knows today's decisions were difficult for him to announce," Stapleton said Thursday. "But our state can no longer spend what it doesn't have. From our perspective at EMU, we are proud to have been the champion of affordable quality education for working families with last year's zero, zero, zero campaign, and we will do our best to tighten our own fiscal belts to make today's news as painless as possible for students."
Tightening will be hard, Martin said.
“This is significant,” Martin said. “We will work on it. Overall, I was disappointed in the size of the cut. It’s very difficult to handle with what we’ve been trying to do in investing in our academic quality and our facilities."
University of Michigan officials echoed Martin’s concerns.
“There’s no denying that this is painful,” U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said, noting that the university is continuing to work with the governor and legislature to stress the importance of higher education in turning Michigan’s economy around.
That was also the theme of University Research Corridor Executive Director Jeff Mason’s statement.
“Four years ago, when the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University formed a partnership called the University Research Corridor, we set out to leverage our expertise and resources to transform the state's economy,” he said. “While the three URC institutions generate more than $400 million in state tax revenue and represent a powerhouse of research on par with the best of the nation's similar ‘clusters of innovation,’ we believe strongly that robust investment in all of Michigan's public universities — and through that, our students — is key to the state's future economic prosperity.
“We believe that as the state's finances stabilize, our state leadership will recognize the critical importance of investing in higher education.”
Cynthia Wilbanks, U-M’s vice president for governmental relations, said a 15 percent decline would lower the state aid to U-M to approximately $268 million — which would “be the lowest amount of appropriation in 20 years.”
She said U-M has seen this day coming and has been working over the past several years to trim its budget. She said it was too early to make any predictions about tuition rate increases.
A loss of state funding isn’t the only possible loss for the universities in Snyder’s plan. His proposal would also take away a tax credit for those individual who donate to universities.
EMU uses that incentive with its recent graduates as a way of helping them establish life-long giving habits, Martin said.
Without it, those soliciting funds for the university will have to use other incentives to help get the gifts the university needs, she said.
David Jesse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or at 734-623-2534.