Governorís budget raises questions about higher education funds
February 21, 2011 —
Last Thursday, Gov. Rick Snyder released his budget proposal which includes a 15 percent decrease in state funds for public universities, including SVSU. The proposed spending cut received mixed reviews that seem to split along party lines.
At a legislative breakfast hosted by the Roberts Fellows, state legislators from both main parties seemed to agree that, while there are still details of the budget to be worked out, across-the-board control of state spending is a priority.
This budget issue seems to present a case of competing values: what do we place a higher priority on Ė fiscal responsibility or higher education? Obviously, this is not an absolute, either-or question. To our knowledge, no one suggests that standing for a responsible budget means not standing for higher education. Weíre looking at our legislators to find a suitable balance.
Being close to the issue, students, faculty and administrators should recognize their bias toward the status quo. Many of us do not believe public university appropriations should be reduced because we ourselves are heavily invested, academically and financially, in our public university.
Itís important to remember that we chose to study at or work for a public university knowing that it depends on state money. Being financially dependent on the state has two important implications: the university is affected by both the will of the voters and the budget constraints, caused by a suffering Michigan economy.
Many people insist that the state needs to get spending under control, but when asked where to cut, not here is the common response: not here. Everyone seems to expect others to make the necessary sacrifice.
It appears that we may all have to sacrifice something we value for the greater financial good of our state. Financial sacrifices do not necessarily have to raise tuition, though; the University has raised the cost of housing and has the option to reduce services in nonessential areas.
In addition, some students rightly question the exclusion of community colleges from the appropriation cuts. Since these institutions also partake of state dollars, these students feel that community colleges should take the cuts as well. Fair is fair.
University President Eric Gilbertson draws attention to the issue of stability. He has expressed concern over the one size fits all approach to college funding that affects very different institutions quite similarly when it comes to these cuts, such as comparing our institution to the University of Michigan.
In order for our universitiesí budgets to be stable, first our state budgets must be stable. Itís easy for us to worry about our university, but we also have to worry about the state as a whole. The financial well-being of residents and businesses must be secure before we begin conversations about how much of our state funding is entitled to higher education.