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Engler signs higher education bill

October 4, 2000

LANSING - A bill providing $1.6 billion in funding for Michigan higher education was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. John Engler.

The bill, passed by the state House Sept. 27, includes $321 million in funding for MSU.

Seven other Michigan universities received the funding necessary to place them at their designated funding floors, which were established last year. This would give all but two Michigan colleges the funding they need to meet their budget demands. The two colleges below their set budget levels are MSU and Grand Valley State University.

The new budget also includes $110 million to fund 44,000 Michigan Merit Award recipients who will graduate high school next year. The merit award is a program set up to help students with college costs.

“We’re trying to make college affordable for everyone who wants to go,” said Engler after he signed the bill. “This budget clearly demonstrates Michigan’s commitment to higher education.”

Along with the awards, the bill includes modifications to the tuition restraint policy to ensure that schools would be unable to receive future budget increases if tuition growth rose above 4 percent. Both policies are intended to make higher education more accessible.

MSU is slated to receive a budget increase equal to 5.7 percent of its current funding, the same percentage the University of Michigan will receive. Of the three colleges in the highest funding level, Wayne State University received the lowest increase, equal to 5 percent. When asked about any inequality in the funding policy, Engler was quick to answer.

“I think that’s a very ‘glass half full’ type of outlook,” Engler said. “Internal competition is inevitable in the budget process.

“I had no problem with signing this budget, as I’ve just done.”

Some people, including some lawmakers, believe the governor may have preferred to sign another bill altogether.

“The governor has been very supportive,” said MSU Trustee Robert Weiss. “The plan is awful - it’s not fair, but what choice did he have?”

The signing of the bill completes Michigan’s $9.6 billion budget for this fiscal year. The bill was left unfinished in June after budget negotiations broke down and state lawmakers went on summer recess. The House approved it on its first day back by a vote of 95-13.

The new law comes a day after Gov. Engler told educators attending a summit in Lansing that a majority of the public school teachers in Michigan will receive new laptop computers. The $110 million plan was mentioned in his State of the State address in January.

With education playing a large role in campaigns everywhere, Kelly Chesney, a spokeswoman for the budget department, does not think the new policies are that shocking.

“Education is not an issue in Michigan,” Chesney said. “We have a history of programs that ensure quality education here.”

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