Mich. House pushes plan to slash UM, Wayne State funding
Michigan's 15 public universities are bracing for a potential change that would severely alter how state aid is divided up among them, with most schools expected to see increases at the expense of two of the state's top research institutions. The Michigan House of Representatives this month passed controversial legislation that would tie the annual appropriation for the state's public universities to the number of full-time Michigan students enrolled. The House plan does not include an increase in funding for higher education — unlike the 2% increase passed by the Senate and recommended by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Instead, it would keep the appropriation around $1.3 billion but shuffle how much each college gets while phasing the changes in over three years. Under the House plan, UM's Ann Arbor campus stands to lose the most: $39.5 million, or 12% of its state funding, in the first year and nearly $125 million over the first three years. Wayne State would lose $8.2 million, or 4% of its state aid, in the first year and nearly $29 million in three years. Both universities, respectively, educate a larger percentage of non-resident students. Michigan would become the only state in the nation to use resident enrollment as the sole basis for state funding, said Britany Affolter-Caine, executive director of the University Research Corridor, an alliance of UM, WSU and MSU that promotes research as a driver of the state's economy. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson said a cut of $28.6 million over three years would dramatically impact tuition and services at the urban research institution where 2,135 of the 24,155 enrolled students are not from Michigan. The proposed funding change is a similar mechanism that is used to fund K-12 education in Michigan, which pays a set amount per student to schools each year, but it costs more to educate graduate and professional students, Wilson said. Some universities can put 300 undergraduate students into one lecture hall whereas a medical school class may not have that many. "There is a difference of scale here," Wilson said. "There needs to be a more sophisticated mechanism that better recognizes the unique missions of the 15 public universities in Michigan." Wilson added there is an underappreciation of research universities' contributions to the state's economy and residents' health and wellbeing. "Michigan has not historically appreciated the value of research," Wilson said. "There is a huge (investment) return on research. ... Research has a multiplier effect. The kind of technologies that come out of research universities: the life-saving discoveries and the improved quality of life is also really important. It's not just the financial benefit."
May 24, 2021