by Beata Mostafavi | The Flint Journal
Monday April 20, 2009, 2:34 PM
FLINT, Michigan -- It's challenging enough for students to go to college in bad economic times, so let's not make it any harder -- that was University of Michigan-Flint Chancellor Ruth Person's message to state lawmakers.
Person testified before the Senate Appropriation Subcommittee on Higher Education on Monday at UM-Flint, urging members to reconsider cutting a program that funds transition, mentoring and other valuable services at the university.
The state's proposed budget would eliminate funding for the King-Chavez-Parks Initiative, which supports programs used by nearly 900 students at UM-Flint.
"In a state where we have far too many people who lack four-year degrees, these programs are solutions to that problem," Person said. "I urge you to consider the consequences of cutting this important initiative."
The initiative sends nearly $400,000 to UM-Flint. It funds the university's Bridges to Success program, which helps prepare students from educationally or economically disadvantaged backgrounds for college.
It also funds a transition program that helps ensure students at community colleges make a smooth transfer to the university through workshops and advising opportunities.
Person highlighted the university's success stories, such as record enrollment, newly opened student housing and partnerships with the community, that help Flint's revitalization efforts.
She said UM-Flint is designating $350,000 to help students affected by the economy pay for school, leading freshman into the city through a new first-year experience course and helping students do meaningful work on alternative spring breaks.
Even during "an economic meltdown," there is hope for success, she said, but higher education needs support.
"An investment in the University of Michigan-Flint and other public universities in the state is an investment in more than a campus," she said. "It is a commitment to a city, a region, a state and its citizens. It means that we are competitive in the knowledge economy.
"That is why that even in these tough times, investments in our public universities must continue."
State Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, said he appreciated UM-Flint's investment in its students and community and wants to see it grow.
"I believe very strongly in what higher education can do. Its helped me in my career," he said. "We have to make some tough decisions. It forces us to prioritize ... we will do the best we can."
Committee members also were scheduled to hear testimony from officials at Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Michigan State University Agricultural Experiment Station, Michigan State University Cooperative Extension, American Association of University Professors, and the Friends of Historic East Campus of Western Michigan University.