What do alumni think about this week’s news about a proposed increase in state funding for higher ed? We asked John Cherry, former lieutenant governor and a U-M grad, for his reaction.
“This is a good start. It reflects a belief that investment in four-year college education is an important piece in developing the economic base and workforce that will develop a strong state economy. So I’m encouraged,” Cherry, ’73, MPA’84, said.
As part of his 2015 budget proposal, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recommends an increase of 6.1 percent in higher education funding. Universities were glad to hear the news , including officials at Michigan. (Snyder, who is a U-M grad, will speak on campus Feb. 10.)
The increase, if approved by the legislature, would counter a recent trend of decreases. For example, higher ed funding was cut by 15 percent in 2011.
Cherry, who is a life member of the Alumni Association and serves on its board of directors, was lieutenant governor under Jennifer Granholm. During this time, he chaired the Lt. Governor’s Commission on Higher Education & Economic Growth.
“The state of Michigan has always believed that it takes a high school diploma to be ready for work and citizenship,” he said. “But today, it takes postsecondary education to be ready for work and citizenship.”
“As both an alum and a former policy maker, it’s good to see we’re headed in the right direction in this area, especially compared to other areas,” he added, also noting the importance of funding for community colleges and K12, which will not increase as much. “It’s really a question of priorities. And I think it’s the right priority. But we do have other educational partners. And across the budget, most others are not seeing the same increases.
As for higher ed, cuts in state funding have been going on for decades. To U-M officials, this decrease has made it harder to provide the type of education that public universities were created to provide.
“You have to understand, public universities have always depended largely on state resources to help support them and bring down the cost of tuition,” said Ted Spencer, U-M Associate Vice Provost and Executive Director of Admissions, said in a 2013 article in Michigan Alumnus magazine.
According to U-M’s Michigan Almanac (see page 134), state appropriations have decreased from more than 60 percent in 1970 to less than 20 percent today, and costs have risen steadily during that time.
With those kinds of drops, U-M has had to rely increasingly on philanthropy, including from alumni. The University also continues to try to push for better help from the state, an effort that is aided by the help of concerned Alumni Association members.
Michigan Alumnus readers know these issues have been going on for a long time. While an increase in funding is a good sign, it’s important to remember that it follows years of decreases. This means that students today face financial burdens that alumni in the past did not have to face.