EMU President: Snyder Budget Invests in Higher Ed

EMU President: Snyder Budget Invests in Higher Ed
March 7, 2014/Detroit News

By Susan Martin

We are pleased to see recognition of the importance of reinvesting in higher education in the budget submitted by Gov. Rick Snyder. Increasing the level of state support for our 15 public universities, which provide Michigan with some of the best opportunities for higher education in the nation, has two important outcomes.

First, it directly helps students by keeping the cost of tuition down. This is an important point of pride here at Eastern Michigan, where we have held tuition increases to an average of 3 percent over the last five years, the lowest total in the state. An undergraduate student at Eastern pays only $43 per credit hour more today than he or she did in 2009.

The correlation between state investment in higher education and tuition rates is well documented. As the state drastically reduced funding to higher education over much of the last two decades, tuition rates increased to help make up the difference and preserve the quality of our institutions. Keeping tuition rates as low as possible also helps to reduce the debt-load of students, an increasingly growing concern for students and universities nationwide and a crucial factor in equalizing educational opportunity.

Second, the governor’s proposed reinvestment in higher education will help our state grow economically. A recent study by the Anderson Economic Group, commissioned by the President’s Council, State Universities of Michigan, found that the economic footprint of Michigan’s 15 public universities totaled $23.9 billion in economic activity in 2012.

Washtenaw County, home of the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, led Michigan’s counties by far in public university spending that year, with more than $2.5 billion in total payroll and non-payroll spending by EMU, the University of Michigan and other university employees, according to the report. Second was Ingham County, home of Michigan State University, with more than $1.2 billion in university-related spending. These counties remain among the state’s most powerful and vibrant economic engines.

The Business Leaders for Michigan have called for a $1 billion reinvestment in higher education over the next 10 years in order to make Michigan a top-10 state in terms of jobs and economic growth, to reinvigorate our economy and bolster our competitive status.

States with the highest number of college graduates are the most prosperous. According to the Lumina Foundation, Michigan needs to graduate one million new college graduates by 2025 to meet workforce demands.

We applaud Snyder’s proposal to add restraint in administrative spending along with the number of Pell Grant recipients at universities to the funding metrics for university state aid. Factoring in Pell Grant recipients supports institutions of opportunity, such as Eastern Michigan and Wayne State, where thousands of lower-income students attend and succeed in achieving a degree and then remain in Michigan.

Snyder’s budget proposal is an important first step toward energizing Michigan and fueling our economy by educating Michigan citizens and providing a skilled workforce for the future.

Susan Martin is president of Eastern Michigan University.