Polling data found support for boosting state funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities.
Results from the April poll by the Michigan Association of State Universities (MASU) comes as lawmakers in Lansing near completion of a budget for the state’s 2019 fiscal that begins Oct 1. Nearly eight in 10 of the 600 residents polled by the research firm Glengariff Group Inc. said they either strongly or somewhat supported a “significant” increase in state funding for higher education to keep tuition down.
MASU President and CEO Dan Hurley defines “significant” as an amount that’s more than the rate of inflation. After the state’s deep fiscal crisis earlier this decade, funding for higher education has been better under Gov. Rick Snyder, although it still lags pre-recession levels, Hurley said.
“We’ve had inflationary increases over the last seven years. That sounds good, but we’re still kind of spinning our wheels,” he said. “When you look back over a longer period of time, clearly Michigan has disinvested a lot.”
State support for higher education presently rates 28-percent below the per-capita average, Hurley said.
The state in the 2001-02 fiscal year provided $1.94 billion for higher education, according to MASU. Annual funding increases at the rate of inflation would have pushed the appropriation to $2.75 billion, Hurley said.
However, Michigan’s public universities split $1.42 billion appropriated for high education in the current fiscal year.
The result of the MASU poll “says a lot,” Hurley said.
“Very clearly, Michigan residents believe that the state absolutely has a fundamental role in supporting the public universities financially in order to ensure college is accessible for all,” he said.
Gov. Snyder included a 2-percent increase, or $29.8 million more, in state funding for higher education in his 2019 fiscal year budget proposal. The amount included $1.42 billion for operations at the 15 public universities, plus $63.1 million for Michigan State University’s AgBioResearch & Extension, according to the February budget proposal.
The governor proposed another $29.8 million in funding for universities that meet certain performance metrics and keep tuition increases to no more than 3.8 percent, or double the expected rate of inflation.
In the Legislature, the state Senate has offered a 3-percent increase and the House proposed a 1-percent increase, Hurley said.
Results from the MASU poll also show high expectations among parents.
When asked the highest level of education the respondents’ sons or daughters will achieve, 84 percent said they expect them to earn at least a four-year college degree. More than one in four parents expect their child to earn a master’s degree.
Nearly nine in 10 said it was somewhat or very important to have a four-year college degree to have a good job or career.
Hurley cites those findings as recognition of the value of a college education and the greater job security and earnings potential that come with it.
“That speaks to an elevated kind of culture of education in Michigan and strong aspirations for Michigan residents, and obviously, it’s great to see their perceived value in a college degree,” he said. “It certainly strikes a very hopeful chord in our state’s ability, long term, to meet (talent) demands and be competitive globally.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out the May 14 edition of MiBiz for a series of in-depth reporting on Michigan’s higher education industry.