Granholm Presents Higher Ed Appropriations Budget

By Marcia Goodrich | Published

Governor Jennifer Granholm has presented a budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year that would cut higher education appropriations by 3 percent. Under such a plan, Michigan Technological University's appropriation would be reduced from $49,518,500 to $47,870,800.

The proposal will be taken up and possibly amended by both houses of the state legislature before a final version is adopted later this year.

"The governor is justifiably concerned about financial pressures on the state," Michigan Tech President Glenn D. Mroz said. "So are we at Michigan Tech. But cutting higher education appropriations accelerates a trend that is counterproductive, not only for students and their families, but also for the state as a whole."

"The whole idea that education doesn't matter is a myth," he said. "According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment average for people with bachelor's degrees was only 3.8 percent last month." This compares with 6.2 percent for people with some college, 8 percent for high school graduates and 12 percent for those with less than a high school diploma.

While college-educated citizens are key to economic growth, state spending priorities have not reflected that fact, Mroz said.

From 2001-02 to 2007-08, the University has seen an 11-percent drop in state appropriations, not counting inflation. Correcting for inflation, we receive the same level of state funding today as in 1970, but we have 40 percent more students (7,000 vs. 4,900).

To compensate, the University has been forced to rely more heavily on tuition revenue. By 2003-04, tuition provided a greater share of Michigan Tech's revenue than state appropriations, and the gap has been widening ever since.

Nevertheless, the University has focused on keeping a Michigan Tech education affordable. The financial aid budget rose proportionately over the seven-year period, helping to cushion students and their families from the effects of the shift.

Subjecting the University to even more cuts will harm the state in the long run, said Mroz. "Michigan can't afford to fall behind the rest of the world in technological education. Other countries are investing heavily in STEM education, because high-tech jobs are those in greatest demand," he said.

The proposed 3-percent cut will be even more difficult to shoulder without affecting educational quality if tuition freezes are implemented, he added.

While Michigan Tech graduates the highest percentage of tech-savvy students, all 15 public universities in the state play an important role in the state's economy. "To cut appropriations while simultaneously alluding to a tuition freeze verges on discounting the quality—and ultimately, the value—of a degree earned from one of the finest collections of public universities in the nation," Mroz said.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.