Proposed higher ed bill to increase MSU funding by 5.9 percent

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of the budget bill that would limit tuition increases during the 2014-2015 academic year for resident undergraduate students to 3.2 percent. 

Although the budget bill could appropriate $264,377,200 in state funding for MSU, it also would fine the university $500,000 for its involvement with union-building workshops.

The funding penalty to MSU was proposed on the grounds of participating in “instructional activity that encourages or discourages union organizing of employees.” Since May 2013, MSU’s School of Human Resources and Labor Relations was contracted by North America’s Building Trades Union Department to administer and provide academic oversight of the Building Trades Academy, MSU Spokesman Kent Cassella previously told The State News. However, MSU does not pay for the workshops.

The budget bill is sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, who said that tuition costs are reaching near-unaffordable for those in the middle class. Schuitmaker said the responsibility of her and her fellow legislators is to prevent this issue through regulation.

“I think everyone, and certainly myself as a parent of a college student, feels that tuition is becoming unaffordable,” Schuitmaker said. “A degree from a public university is just becoming unaffordable for the middle class, and so we have to be very mindful that we make sure that we help control costs as much as we can as a state.”

Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw, said as much as it’s the responsibility of public universities to control tuition costs, it’s also the state’s responsibility to aid them in capping costs by increasing higher education funding.

“We have to do a better job as well as they,” Kahn said.

But Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, refuted Kahn, saying state funding has aligned with increasing costs over time, while public universities have not kept tuition costs in line with inflation.

“We’ve held up our end, because we’ve been somewhere near the rate of inflation and the universities haven’t,” Pappageorge said. “Since I’ve been here I do not remember tuition, generally speaking, from all the universities, being less than the rate of inflation. Ever.”

Because enacting a higher education appropriation requires approval from the House, Senate and governor, MSU Spokesman Jason Cody said it’s too early to speculate on how it will impact tuition costs.

On Tuesday the MSU Board of Trustees approved a 3.95 percent hike to a double room and a silver meal plan, increasing the overall rate to $9,154.

The board will likely vote on a proposed 3 percent tuition increase at its meeting in June.

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