University officials: Plan higher ed funding
Withering state support and increasing student enrollment will continue to pressure Michigan's universities in 2010.
Michigan has budgeted to cut higher education appropriations by about 8.4 percent to roughly $1.5 billion for its 2009-2010 fiscal year. Michigan already ranks as the state with the second-worst percent change in higher education appropriations, according to data from the President's Council, State Universities of Michigan.
“I think there are serious concerns about how the state will continue to be able to fund higher education at a level even close to the amount they are currently funding higher ed. That probably looms as the top concern for higher education,” said Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations at the University of Michigan.
“The challenge for the state of Michigan is funding, and it's not funding in terms of how much money. It's funding in terms of strategy,” said Harvey Hollins, Wayne State University vice president for governmental affairs.
Hollins says state government officials are continuing to put the state's higher education system at a disadvantage because of the lack of a long-term funding strategy.
“The state is worrying about 2010 now and not having the conversation about 2015,” he said.
What resources universities do receive from the state are likely to support an ever-growing number of student bodies at state schools as the undergraduate enrollment increases seen at colleges and universities throughout the state are expected to continue.
That means having to do more, for more students, with less, said Jack Kay, provost for Eastern Michigan University. More students, Kay said, means more opportunity for EMU and other state schools to focus on their economic impact.
“As long as we can continue on the enrollment increase, we can do more to connect students with jobs,” Kay said.
Despite 2010's financial challenges, the year could be another big year for research at UM, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, said Jeff Mason, executive director of the University Research Corridor.
“It seems like there is going to be a good emphasis on investing in basic and applied research activities that could lead to pretty significant economic growth,” he said.
Mason hasn't seen any hard numbers about 2010 federal research funding, “but clearly the Obama administration has signaled that they are going to make those kinds of investments into research and development that have a proven track record of producing significant results,” he said. “Both in terms of health research that improves the health and well-being of the citizens of Michigan but also in terms of having an impact on the economic future and trajectory of our state and the nation as a whole.”
Ryan Beene: (313) 446-0315, email@example.com