The Big Mitten gets Dumb, Dumber. How Long to Dumbest?

The Big Mitten gets Dumb, Dumber. How Long to Dumbest?
Posted by Daniel Howes (The Detroit News) on Wed, Sep 23, 2009 at 10:48 AM


The Big Mitten gets dumb, dumber. How long to dumbest?


As the "leaders" in Lansing squabble over how to divide the diminishing spoils from Michigan's imploding tax revenue -- without, thank you, talking too much about structural reform -- comes now a press release from the the Presidents Council for the State Universities of Michigan, citing data from the State Higher Education Executive Officers association:


"Higher education appropriations per full-time enrolled student in Michigan have decreased by 22.7 percent since 2003-2008 when adjusted for inflation, the biggest decrease in the nation," reports the Lansing-based presidents council. "While Michigan has been slashing spending on higher education -- the best economic development tool available to the state -- Alabama has increased per student spending by 37 percent. Others leading the way: Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada and Tennessee."


Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee? Yep, the same states that are seeing rising per-capita incomes (while Michigan's continues to fall), that are seeing new investment in the auto and manufacturing spaces, that are gaining more influence in Washington because they are, among other things, adding population.


Now there are all sorts of reasons for the presidents council in Lansing to drop these factoids into the public debate a scant week before the budget fracas careens into another shutdown. Chiefly, they want to wield embarrassing facts to stave off more destruction. They want more dough. They want more resources to close the gap with their rivals elsewhere, because funding (and the comparative lack thereof) is a cumulative game that impacts institutions over time; helps them recruit faculty; helps improve programs and facilities that attract the best students. Or not.


This isn't so much a Republican or Democratic thing; it's a Michigan thing and, yes, a union thing. Is the GOP leadership in the state Senate pushing to cut scholarships and the Michigan Promise Grants, among other things? Yes. Do the Democrats, led by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, steadfastly refuse to engage in the kind of serious structural reform to public-employee wages and benefits, public services like corrections and more service sharing at the local level that might free up precious dollars for higher ed? Yup.


Don't care what the guv and Lt. Gov. John Cherry say about Michigan's need to double the number of college graduates it produces. What matters is what they do and whether they lead. The facts, as cited by the higher ed officers association, are not on their side. Beggaring the future to pay for the present is not a strategy; it's surrender. And folks wonder why Michigan's biggest export are its college graduates? Wonder no more.

Posted on Wednesday, September 23, 2009 (Archive on Saturday, October 31, 2009)
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