Presidents Council Hails Proposed Higher Ed Funding

Presidents Council Hails Proposed Higher Ed Funding
March 5, 2014/Gongwer News Service

Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan praised to the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee on Wednesday the increase in state funding for higher education proposed in the 2014-15 fiscal year budget.

"We applaud the governor for proposing a strategic investment in our higher education institutions," Mr. Boulus told committee members. "It represents a significant step in restoring higher ed funding to where they once were and getting us back to scale."

Mr. Boulus told the committee tuition costs have gone up because state support decreased. He said the average tuition rate in 2001 was $4,945 and has shot up to $8,277 in 2013. The state is 40th in per capita support for higher education, he said, and he would like to become a top 10 state.

However, Mr. Boulus said in spite of a decrease in funding, the universities have attempted to create opportunities and control costs.

He said student financial aid is the fastest growing expenditure in a university's budget and the universities have doubled commitment to financial aid during the last 10 years.

Mr. Boulus also said universities have kept tuition increases at the rate of inflation.

Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), minority vice chair of the committee, asked what student debt is currently compared to 10 years ago.

"It's not a pretty slide," Mr. Boulus responded.

He said it has obviously increased despite universities doubling their efforts to keep costs down and tuition at a reasonable level. He also attributed rising student debt to universities receiving less funding from the state.

Rep. Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville), chair of the committee, said last year tuition restraint was set at 3.75 percent, and the average for the 14 universities that participated was 3.49 percent.

He said the governor is coming in at 3.2 percent in the current recommendation, and asked Mr. Boulus how much revenue universities would lose for each tenth of point that it is decreased.

Mr. Boulus said about $5 million in potential revenue is lost for each tenth of a point. He also said creating a restraint causes universities to lose flexibility in setting tuition and penalizes those who have kept it low over the last several years.

Mr. Pscholka said he would like to have a final product ready to vote on in committee by the end of the month.