A joint resolution currently before the Senate Appropriations Committee would allow voters to formalize the policy through an amendment to Michigan’s Constitution.
But Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, Executive Director Michael Boulus said all 15 of the state’s public universities already offer in-state tuition prices to veterans, to active-duty personnel and to the spouses and dependents of active-duty members.
Boulus said the move by legislators to potentially allow voters to decide tuition policy, which normally is set by a public university’s board of trustees, is a “slippery slope.”
“We’re doing what the constitutional amendment is requiring,” he said. “We don’t think it’s necessary. We don’t like the precedent of establishing a tuition policy in the (Michigan) Constitution.”
Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, said he voted for the resolution because it would entice veterans in Michigan and across the country to seek education in Michigan, and, in turn, it would aid in the reversal of high unemployment rates among veterans in recent years.
Allowing voters to decide on enshrining the resolution in the Michigan Constitution would not subvert public university authority, Singh said.
“It makes good public policy sense to further (veterans’) education,” Singh said. ”(The resolution) ensures that public policy moves forward in perpetuity, regardless of which institution and which institutional policy has been developed.”
A similar resolution, this one pertaining to community colleges, was also put before the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Douglas Williams, legislative affairs chairman for the American Legion Department of Michigan, said holding veterans and active-duty service members to out-of-state tuition costs denies the reality that many are forced to take up residence in another state during the course of their duties.
“As veterans, we’re saying there can be no residency requirement,” Williams said. “If Washington D.C. decides they want us in Maryland, we go from Michigan to Maryland. We don’t have a choice, so why should there be a residency requirement if in fact we are required to go where the Department of Defense sends us?”
With the Department of Defense drawing down the number of active military personnel, Williams said there will be an influx of veterans in Michigan that will require higher education to be eligible for various careers.
“We’re losing 990-some-thousand military personal in the next 15 years,” Williams said. “We don’t know exactly how many of them will be coming to the state of Michigan. We assume there’s going to be 15,000-16,000 every year for the next five years.”