MASU Legislative Priorities

2019 Legislative Priorities

3 Priorities 2 Overarching Goals

Improve College Affordability and Student Success at Michigan's World-Class Public Universities 

Enhance State Operating Support for Public Universities

  • Increase state state operating support for Michigan's public universities to maintain college affordability.
  • Promote a state higher education funding model that provides sufficient, predictable and sustained public university operating support. 

Sufficient, consistent, and sustained state funding for institutional operations mitigates tuition price escalation and keeps college affordable for all students. The primary driver of higher tuition prices over the last several decades has been the state-to-student cost shift that has occurred as a result of state disinvestment in public higher education. In 1979, state funding accounted for 70 percent of Michigan public university operating revenues, with tuition dollars comprising 30 percent. Today, students and families now provide 77 percent of operating dollars. 

Modest increases in state operating support for Michigan’s 15 public universities since 2013 have helped alleviate increases in tuition prices. However, as of 2019, the state’s public universities collectively receive $165.5 million less from the state than in 2011, adjusting for inflation. The long-term trend in state higher education disinvestment is bleaker: a more than one billion dollar reduction in inflation-adjusted state higher education and financial aid funding has occurred since 2002. And now we’re falling behind our peers as a result: when it comes to state support per university student, Michigan now provides only half of the national average ($5,558 compared to $10,381). Michigan’s rank in per capita state fiscal support for higher education has plummeted from 20th in 2001 to 43rd today.

Increase State Need-based Student Financial Aid

  • Increase state investment in need-based student financial aid programs that promote access for lower-income students. 
  • Boost, through new investment, the share of state financial aid directed to students attending the state's public postsecondary institutions, which are generally more affordable. 

The State of Michigan’s primary role in higher education is the allocation of support for its public universities and community colleges in order to mitigate the cost of attendance for all students. Unfortunately, the long term trend of state disinvestment in higher education has resulted in many families confronting unmet financial need at public institutions. Income-targeted state grant programs are important tools in addressing the gap between family resources and public college costs. 

State financial aid appropriations in Michigan peaked in 2002 at $262 million but are less than half of that today, marking a 63 percent reduction in real dollars. Nationally, Michigan ranked 38th in 2016 for grant aid per student, at just $266. The average state financial aid per student in the 12 Midwestern Higher Education Compact states is $446, placing Michigan 9th lowest. To simply get to the national average of $786 in state financial aid per undergraduate student would require an investment of $204 million.  

Still more challenging, only about 29 percent of award funds from the last two remaining general purpose state financial aid programs is provided to students attending Michigan’s public universities and community colleges, compared to a national average of 76 percent of state financial aid dollars going to students attending public postsecondary institutions.

In light of the massive disinvestment in state student aid, Michigan’s public universities have drastically bolstered their financial aid for students from low income backgrounds. These institutionally-provided financial resources have grown from $322 million in 2002 to $926 million today, in constant dollars. 

Invest in State Capital Outlay for Michigan's Public Universities

  • Continue executing 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.
  • Reinstitute state payments for infrastructure, technology, equipment, and maintenance at public university facilities, helping these institutions lengthen the lifespan of the state’s investment for many more years. 

High-quality academic and research facilities are vital to ensuring that Michigan’s public universities remain competitive. Constructing technologically- and environmentally-sophisticated campus facilities requires a financing partnership between the state and its public universities. Although the state has resumed investment in capital outlay in recent budgets, most universities have only received one project during the past eight years. We encourage the state to continue its recent trend of providing capital outlay investment in its public universities. A few projects each year helps mitigate both the challenges to learning in aging buildings as well as the spike in labor and material costs when many institutions receive projects at once after a prolonged drought of projects.

Also important is the need for state investment in existing infrastructure on public university campuses in order to maximize the lifespan of these important state assets. The state has not provided infrastructure, technology, equipment, and maintenance (ITEM) grants since 2000, shifting one more cost burden from the state to the universities. The state’s public universities have an estimated $6.1 billion in deferred maintenance to manage, covering everything from steam tunnels to roads to building structures. Ultimately, a portion of students’ tuition dollars end up paying for critical campus asset preservation needs; monies that would be better utilized for direct instruction.

For more information on the state universities’ collective policy priorities, including data sources, see MASU’s Michigan Higher Education Public Policy Agenda, viewable online at