Students speak out against university funding cuts

LANSING Mich.

A group of university student government leaders from across Michigan on Monday called on state lawmakers to prevent budget cuts that have led to higher tuition rates.

Students said the higher tuition rates have made college less affordable, forced them to work more hours to pay their bills and increased loan debt for graduates.

“It’s a strain on the educational experience,” Greg Jones, a student government leader at Eastern Michigan University, said at the Capitol press conference. “Students have to work more and more. They have less time to study because of the time spent having to make money.”

Michigan’s 15 public universities have been hampered by budget cuts over the past few years. Overall, their combined state aid for operations dropped from about $1.6 billion in 2001-02 to about $1.4 billion this year.

Universities may not get all the money they were supposed to this fiscal year. Some cuts have been approved by state leaders and plans call to delay some payments due to universities and community colleges that were expected late this summer.

In theory, schools will get those delayed payments back in the fiscal year that starts in October. But so far, there’s no agreement on how to resolve an overall state budget deficit projected at more than $1.6 billion for next fiscal year.

That worries students who fear that promised state aid may just disappear as it has in some previous years. The result typically is higher tuition increases.

The average annual tuition paid by a full-time undergraduate student from Michigan at a state school was $6,890 in 2005-06, up 39 percent from an average $4,948 in 2001-02, according to reports from nonpartisan House and Senate fiscal agencies. Those calculations include some fees, but not all of them.

The average annual tuition and mandatory fee costs exceeded $7,000 in the recently completed academic year and early signs are they will escalate again for students.

– Associated Press



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