2023 Legislative Priorities
Priority #1: Enhance State Operating Support for Public Universities to Improve College Affordability
Continue momentum in funding reinvestment to power Michigan’s workforce talent pipeline.
- The state should increase base state operating support for Michigan’s public universities to maintain college affordability.
- Michigan should promote a state higher education funding model that provides sufficient, predictable and sustained public university operating support.
The top policy priority of Michigan’s 15 public universities is for the state to provide sufficient, consistent, and sustained funding for institutional operations in order to keep college affordable for all students, and especially those from low- and middle-income backgrounds.
For two decades, the state’s steady disinvestment in public higher education forced universities to raise tuition. The FY2023 state budget for higher education included a much appreciated and needed strong reinvestment in public university affordability. We thank policymakers for their wise investment. However, even with the FY2023 increases, the state’s support for its public universities remains down by $380 million since 2011, adjusting for inflation. Since 2002, state higher education operations funding is down more than one billion dollars with inflation.
In 1979, state funding accounted for 70% of Michigan public university operating revenues, with tuition dollars comprising 30%. Today, students and families provide a full 78% of institutional operating dollars. Only 22% of university base operating revenues came from the state in 2022.
Michigan admirably funds its community colleges at $10,348 per fiscal year equated student (FYES), or 111% of the national average. But the state only funds its public universities at an average of $5,993 per FYES, which is only two-thirds of the national average. This is not how Michigan can succeed at a time when the best paying jobs in highest demand require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
For the past year, recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, accompanying inflation, and the demand for workers have overshadowed every aspect of state funding. Expenditures and revenue losses at Michigan’s public universities during the worst of the pandemic were about $750 million, even after accounting for federal rescue aid. State support continues to be vital so that Michigan’s public universities can continue to provide quality education at an affordable price to meet the needs of our state’s economy.
Priority #2: Increase State Need-based Student Financial Aid to Enhance College Affordability
Build on Michigan’s historic investment in financial aid to ensure that less affluent students have the same ability to earn a college degree.
- The state should increase state investment in need-based student financial aid programs that promote access for lower-income students.
- The state should continue the phased-in implementation of the new Michigan Achievement Scholarship.
Steep cuts to Michigan’s state funded student financial aid programs have diminished the ability for lower-income families to afford a college education, despite tremendous investments by the public universities in the provision of institutional need-based grants. These cuts have led to less affluent students facing higher loans to meet the costs of college, or worse, not attending a university at all.
For twenty years, state financial aid appropriations for university students languished. They peaked in 2002 at $262 million before eroding to just one-third that amount in 2022. Michigan ranked last in the nation for state-funded financial aid per public postsecondary student in FY2021, and even when including federal dollars, the state only ranked 36th in the nation in FY2021 for grant aid per student at just $363. Worse, Michigan ranked 41st in the nation for grant aid per capita, coming in at just above one-third the national figure.
However, included in the FY2023 state higher education budget is the new Michigan Achievement Scholarship, a game-changing turnaround in the state’s investment in student financial aid and public university affordability. This much appreciated aid program will help low- and middle-income students better afford a quality public university education by contributing up to $5,500 per student starting with spring 2023 high school graduates who enroll at a public university. Three-quarters of enrolling university students are expected to be eligible for the scholarship. However, as this program is being phased-in through 2028, we need policymakers’ help in continuing with the multiyear implementation. MCL 388.1836j specifies that $50 million should be added each year through 2028 to pay for the expected phase-in of the Michigan Achievement Scholarship.
As the Michigan Achievement Scholarship is further implemented, there will be further refinements to this program. One that will be required is replacing the “Estimated Family Contribution” (EFC) definition in Michigan Achievement Scholarship, which is a federal financial aid calculation. The EFC replacement is termed as the Student Aid Index (SAI) and is set to be in place for the 2024-2025 academic year. Other needed refinements will likely arise in the coming year, and we will work with policymakers to maximize the impact of the Michigan Achievement Scholarship on college affordability in Michigan.
We thank policymakers for their dedication to increasing college affordability and enrollment. In turn, our elected leaders can be assured that Michigan’s public universities will continue to serve as responsible stewards of state and federal resources.
Priority #3: Invest in State Capital Outlay and Asset Maintenance to Provide High-quality Facilities and Campus Infrastructure
To compete for the best students, best faculty, and best research opportunities, it’s vital that Michigan universities have high-quality facilities.
- The state should support a state capital outlay process that is conducted annually, is consistent and predictable, and provides the public investment needed to ensure continued world-class academics and applied research at Michigan’s public universities.
- The state should reinstitute state payments for infrastructure, technology, equipment, and maintenance for university facilities and infrastructure, helping these institutions lengthen the lifespan and functional utility of the state’s previous investments in campus assets.
High-quality academic and research facilities are vital to ensuring that Michigan’s public universities remain competitive by continuing to deliver world-class education and creating the knowledge and talent that will power tomorrow’s economy. Constructing technologically and environmentally sophisticated campus facilities requires a financing partnership between the state and its public universities. Capital outlay investments have fallen short over the years, and no new university capital outlay project has been authorized for planning since 2018, although one new project was directly authorized for construction. It is important to return to a dependable cycle of a few projects annually to minimize uncertainty and to avoid extended delays in asset maintenance, or the sudden tightening of construction-related labor markets due to multiple institutions planning or building at once. The state capital outlay process should be conducted annually, be predictable and consistent, scored transparently, and include significant public investment in campus facilities on a regular basis.
To maximize the lifespan of these important state assets, these facilities need to be maintained. Universities are careful stewards of state assets, but they can only do so much maintenance and upkeep without state investment. The state has not provided infrastructure, technology, equipment, and maintenance (ITEM) grants since 2000, shifting another cost from the state to the universities. There is currently over $4 billion in deferred maintenance needs at the 15 campuses. That means students’ tuition dollars end up paying for critical campus asset preservation needs; monies that would be better utilized for direct instruction. The FY2023 Executive Budget included a restoration of these payments, and SB 78 of 2021 included a similar proposed appropriation. While neither ultimately became law, we commend these vital efforts and hope that this coming session can see these payments fully restored.
For more information on the state universities’ collective policy priorities, including data sources, see MASU’s 2023 Michigan Higher Education Public Policy Agenda, viewable online at www.masu.org/policy-reports.