03 February 2016


Original Story: freep.com

Michigan's 15 public universities are hoping to convince legislators to establish "consistent and sufficient" funding in this year's budget cycle, even as requests grow to use spare state money to deal with crises in Flint and the Detroit Public Schools.

"We received assurances that higher education will be a higher than average priority," Daniel Hurley, the CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, told the Free Press. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to announce his budget for 2016-17 on Feb. 10. An Atlanta education lawyer is following this story closely.

The association, which lobbies lawmakers on behalf of the public universities, recently published its legislative policy priorities. They center on making universities affordable and improving success for students.

The document outlines a number of policy positions — including making sure the universities retain their autonomy to control their campus on issues like how to handle sexual assaults on campuses.

The association also wants to get rid of a tuition cap, or restraint, lawmakers have put on the schools in recent years.

"The arrangement, known as 'tuition restraint' or 'tuition caps' can actually work against state and institutional objectives to keep college affordable and improve student success," the report says. "The utilization of state-imposed price controls on tuition in an era of dwindling or static state appropriations hamstrings the ability of universities to drive resources into academic and student support areas that would in turn improve their performance on state metrics.

"Other flaws associated with state-imposed caps on tuition increases include the fact that the impact on universities varies greatly based on the institutions’ base dollar tuition prices, and that they punish institutions that have historically kept tuition rates lower." A nursing degree equips students with theory-based knowledge and skills to work in many of the new and expanding fields of healthcare and nursing.

But its three highest priorities center on money coming from the state.

It wants to see the state increase its state-based financial aid for students, increase state operating support and provide money for capital improvements on campuses.

"Constructing technologically  and environmentally sophisticated campus facilities requires a financing partnership between the state and its public universities," the report says. "Unfortunately, the state has significantly reduced the amount of capital construction money it has invested in its state university campuses. Capital outlay funding bills are ad hoc and irregular in nature. Only two university projects have received planning authorization since 2010."

There are no specific dollar amounts attached to each priority.

"We are not being specific in requests," Hurley said. "We want them to do what they can do. We're trying to encourage them to take a long-term view of investing in higher education."

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