If Michigan fails to invest more money in higher education, the state universities will be in trouble, according to Jennifer Grandholm, the state’s governor. Grandholm, a rising Democratic political figure, says the state needs to change its outdated tax structure. According to an article in AnnArbor.com, the online successor to the Ann Arbor News, there are four factors worth considering regarding Michigan’s higher education funding:
In 1960 at the University of Michigan, the state appropriation made up 77 percent of the general fund budget, which pays for teaching and academic programming.
Today, it comprises 22 percent of that budget, according to the U-M Office of Budget and Planning.
Tuition weight has flip-flopped accordingly. Tuition made up only 21 percent of the general fund budget in 1960.
Now, students are footing more of the bill, paying 65 percent of the general fund budget.
The state has been divesting from higher education for years. Earlier this year the state cut its highly popular state scholarship, the Michigan Promise Scholarship program.
The trouble, fundamentally, is that Michigan used to be a center of American manufacturing. Michigan was a state with a relatively high tax base. With the decline of the American automobile industry this is no longer the case. Without a dramatic change in the tax structure of Michigan, the funding for state universities will continue to decrease.
The easiest solution for state colleges and universities is simply to raise tuition, but this can only occur for so long. The draw for these schools, the reason they look attractive to potential students and their parents, is their low cost.
Grandholm says that she has asked the legislature to work to restructure taxes to keep higher education affordable. This sort of solution has proved very difficult in other states.