State fails to reach deadline

Community colleges appear to have escaped the state of Michigan’s budget ax.

The state missed its Oct. 1 due date to determine a final budget for 2010, and is working under a new deadline of Oct 31.

It seems to be certain, though, that community college funding will not be cut.

“The last proposal I saw had no change from our last appropriation.  We haven’t had any cuts,” MCCC Controller Daniel Schwab said.

MCCC President Dr. David Nixon said this fits the trend of the last few years.

“The appropriation will be the same as last year,” Nixon said.  “It has been declining the past three years.”

There is one part of the budget that will directly affect community college students — the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

“The biggest change for students will be the decision made on the Michigan Promise Scholarship,” Schwab said.

A final decision regarding the scholarship has not been made, but its reinstatement does not look promising.

“I feel bad for the MCCC students who will not get their Promise Scholarships they earned by getting good grades in high school,” Nixon said.

He attended a meeting of community college presidents and trustees on Oct. 3. Nixon said State Fiscal Agent Gary Olson informed the presidents that Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s strategy for saving the scholarship would no longer work. She had hoped to veto that part of the budget bill.

“Gary Olson says there is no legal way she can do that,” Nixon said.
Schwab said that student financial aid will be looked at, and after the state aid cut is determined, the college will find solutions.

Other cuts made to the state’s budget include less funding for public libraries, which could affect MCCC students.

Gov. Granholm disbanded the Michigan libraries department at the state level. Two or three of the databases at the college library may now be unavailable to students because of cost.

“The majority of MCCC’s databases were purchased with college funds, so adequate resource material should continue to be available,” MCCC Director of Learning Resources Barbara Mcnamee said.

As for MCCC’s budget, things seem to be going as planned.

Timothy Bennett explained MCCC’s budget at the Board of Trustees meeting held on Sept. 28.

He said that trends show general fund revenues will be 0.5 percent higher than expected and expenditures will be 0.5 percent lower than estimated.

“This is on track with the budget,” he said.

Bennett also said the conversion to contact hours has increased tuition revenue by $340,000.

Although MCCC’s budget seems to be stable this year, President Nixon is concerned about the support for higher education in Michigan.

“Michigan has one of the lower education attainment rates in the nation and the state government has done nothing to demonstrate that it values higher education,” Nixon said.

One of his concerns is that community colleges are not receiving stimulus money from the state.

“The stimulus dollars are being used to balance the state’s checkbook, not higher education,” Nixon said.

He said that money is being used for the worker-training program, No Worker Left Behind.

There were about 100 students from the program at MCCC this past academic year, but there were 560 students at Jackson Community College and 2500 at Macomb County Community College, Nixon said.

“Compared to the rest of the state, very few MCCC students are getting those training dollars.”

He added that his office is investigating the reason for this difference in numbers.