Michigan budget cuts hurt higher education

Last week Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law a budget for 2009-2010 that drastically reduces state spending on education and social programs.
The Michigan Promise Scholarship  program, which ended up being eliminated for good, was what many students depended on to pay for college.
“MCCC’s financial aid experts tell me as many as 500 of our students are victims of the Legislature’s broken promise. Those students earned those scholarships. They have every right to be angry about it.,” said MCCC President Dr. David Nixon.
“MCCC’s tuition remains the most affordable in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio. Hopefully, the combination of affordability and available financial aid will keep those students in college and focused on their future,” he said.
A study by CCbenefits, Inc (2006) suggests students will see their annual income increase by $181 per year for every credit they complete at MCCC, Nixon said. The current tuition at MCCC is $67 per billable contact hour.
So what does this mean for MCCC students?
“This means MCCC students who were awarded Michigan Promise will not receive funds this year,” said Tracy Vogt, Director of Finacial Aid.
“MCCC students have already felt the effects of this cut when they had to come up with the funds to cover the scholarship amounts this past fall.  It is unfortunate the scholarship was cut and these students will not be receiving funds they were counting on,” said Vogt.
 Granholm signed six separate budget bills, bringing the total to 15, which combine to allocate an overall $44 billion state budget.
The budget includes not a penny of new revenue from taxation.
The budget cuts include:
• Aid to cities and towns down 11 percent, or $100 million in all. These cuts will result in a new wave of reductions carried out at the local level. Affected will be police and fire protection, libraries, streets, water service, and sewerage.
• The  Michigan Promise Scholarship program, providing grants of between $1,000 and $4,000 to assist about 100,000 state residents from low-income households to pay for college. These students will see a substantial increase in their tuition as early as the spring. The elimination of these scholarships was part of an overall 61 percent cut to student financial aid. Also eliminated were state nursing scholarships, the Michigan Work-Study Program, and the Part-Time Independent Student Program. Granholm is still pushing to raise revenue for the scholarship program.
• A reduction of 0.4 percent for state colleges and universities, which were spared a deeper cut by federal stimulus money targeted to higher education.
• A $62 million cut to state mental health services.
Politicians in both parties are in agreement that this year’s cuts are only the beginning. Unlike cuts made in some earlier recessions, it is generally accepted that the reductions made this year will not only be permanent, but even be deepened in the future.
It is estimated that the new budget for 2010 already faces a $100 million shortfall, not counting the education fund, which is largely funded by the state sales tax. Current estimates put the budget deficit for 2011 at $750 million.