Simon, Singh, push for better funding from state
Tuesday morning in the Michigan Capitol, MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon testified to House committee members about educating under a new financial reality next fiscal year while facing down a further stunting of funding growth.
Simon and some presidents of Michigan’s other major public universities touted to members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education about how they have cut operating costs by becoming more lean and efficient institutions, from reducing employee health care coverage to make buildings more energy efficient.
For the universities, these changes were a necessity.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s executive budget proposal increases funding by 1 percent for the 2014-15 fiscal years.
“Two years ago, the state of Michigan cut public university’s (funding) by 15 percent,” Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said. “Last year, we saw a 3 percent increase. Right now, we’re looking at potentially a 2 percent increase (statewide).”
Under the proposal, next year’s funding will increase provided the university agrees not to increase the cost of tuition more than 4 percent.
The increase has the potential to land MSU an additional $247,423.80 each year.
Last year, the university’s funding received a 1.4 percent increase.
“There’s a limited amount of money in the pool right now, about 2 percent,” Simon said after the hearing. “I think it’s important that the House continues to support the recommendation, and then we’re looking at nuances about how to distribute the 2 percent.”
In the fiscal year of 2012-13, MSU received more than $298 million in total funding from the state.
Simon told the panel of legislators MSU has been utilizing taxpayer money responsibly, highlighting MSU’s value to the state economically and otherwise.
The subcommittee remained genial when questioning the president, inquiring about an increase in time to graduation and the impact of calculating the number Pell Grant recipients when determining funding.
Simon also noted in her testimony that the overall cuts have caused the university to lose approximately 50 percent of its purchasing power and acknowledged after the hearing that Snyder’s proposal was no major boost to MSU’s ledgers.
“A 2 percent recommendation does not represent a significant investment in higher education,” Simon said.
However, MSU Trustee George Perles said raising tuition should be a last resort, even with a smaller increase in funding from the state.
“We want the students to have the opportunity to go to school, and we want them to afford it,” Perles said.
Moving forward, Singh hopes the overall negative impact on higher education funding will be reversed.
“I thought Michigan State made a strong case for why we need additional investment to our public universities. … for us to be positioned in a global economy we need to be reinvesting in our institutions,” Singh said. “For us to be successful as public universities, we need to be getting closer to that 15 percent, getting those dollars back.”