State may slash work study jobs
Legislators propose cutting $15 million in aid for college students in
by Doug Guthrie
July 11, 2005
Financial aid for thousands of Michigan college students is at risk
as state lawmakers consider slashing nearly $15 million in funding
for those least able to afford to go to college.
Work-study jobs for students, need-based grants such as the Michigan
Education Opportunity Grant and Part-Time Independent Student program
are proposed to be eliminated in the state's 2006 budget. Also, a
host of initiatives designed to help minority students through the
state's Martin Luther King-Cesar Chavez-Rosa Parks program are
threatened in a politically charged budget negotiation on how to fund
Many students who have relied on the state-supported programs are
concerned the proposed cuts would make college inaccessible.
Tayneata Starr-Thomas, 18, said she wouldn't be a freshman at Wayne
State University if not for its King-Chavez-Parks outreach program.
It prepared her for college while she was a student at Detroit's
Nolan Middle School.
"They helped me fill out financial aid applications earlier in my
junior year so I had the best chance of getting help. I got a
scholarship, too," Starr-Thomas said. "They gave me tools about how
to approach college. Without KCP, a lot of students won't make it to
college. They just won't know how."
Educators say the cuts would limit options for many students at a
time when colleges themselves face reduced funding and are
considering tuition increases. Michigan Technological and Grand
Valley State universities both have raised tuition nearly 8 percent
for the fall. The state's other public universities also are
considering tuition hikes along with service reduction and decreased
"Our universities are in such a bind right now," said Dan Hurley,
spokesman for the Presidents Council, which represents the leaders of
the state's public universities. "Two hundred and eighty-five
thousand students are marching toward the campuses of our public
universities in the coming weeks, and they don't know how to fill out
the balance sheets that say what they will owe and what they can get
The cuts also come as universities have been challenged to increase
the number of graduates to rebuild the state's changing economy and
work force. Educators say cutting aid programs would be
"It is in the state's best interest to get more students into the
pipeline moving toward graduation," Hurley said. "The last thing we
need is any impediment. It is all about investing in the future, and
our state leaders need to put together a plan to do that."
Response to governor
The aid cuts were included in the House budget as bargaining points
to oppose proposals Gov. Jennifer Granholm made in her version of the
budget, said Rep. John Stewart, R-Plymouth, chairman of the House
Appropriations higher education subcommittee.
Granholm wants to eliminate state tuition grants to students
attending private colleges, something the House and Senate oppose.
Almost 45 percent of the state's $60.5 million in tuition grants goes
to students at private colleges.
Legislative leaders also object to the governor's suggestion that the
Michigan Merit Scholarship should be converted to an incentive paid
on college degree completion rather than to high-performing high
Meanwhile, the House has forwarded a controversial plan to
reformulate funding of all public universities. The plan seeks to
level the uneven amount of per-student funding that has gone to the
universities for years. Some schools, like Grand Valley State
University, would receive large increases while others, like Wayne
State University, would see decreases.
"Am I interested in cutting those (aid) programs? No," Stewart said.
"I'm calling the governor out. I want her to tell us where the money
is going to come from."
Sen. Mike Goschka, R-Brant, chairman of the state Senate's Education
Subcommittee, also said he expects to see the aid programs restored
but not until after the governor concedes on other issues.
"It is tough to negotiate, especially when you don't have a lot of
money," Goschka said. "I think John Stewart said it best when he said
the House felt they needed some bargaining chips."
Greg Bird, spokesman for the governor's budget office, said, "Given
our financial situation, Representative Stewart is right: We do have
to make some tough decisions. But programs such as Michigan
work-study and King-Chavez-Parks are a higher priority to us. It's
evident that there are those in the Legislature who feel that way,
too, and we will have to work out this situation."
Cuts reach across the board
Eliminating the state's $2.69 million King-Chavez-Parks program would
end outreach programs at all 15 public universities that influence
about 18,000 high school and middle school students every year. With
about $145,000 in King-Chavez-Parks funding, Wayne State's College
Day program has annually given about 3,000 underprivileged
Detroit-area youths a day at the university as well as workshops to
teach essential college study skills and time management.
"The proposed cuts would devastate the program and the chance at
college for many young people," said Henry Robinson, director of
college enrichment services at Wayne State. "These are children who
might not even consider college without this encouragement."
The University of Michigan and Michigan State University students
have received notices from the colleges about the grants and
financial aid they qualify to receive in the fall using only federal
and institution funding sources. Some work-study programs have been
continued based on limited federal funds. Revised statements will be
sent later, after college tuition rates are finalized and if state
aid is restored.
"If I don't get work-study, I'll be eating nothing but macaroni and
cheese next winter," said Josh Kersey, 20, a University of Michigan
junior studying philosophy and political science and getting about $8
an hour to work 12 hours a week as a secretary in the university's
student government office. In Kersey's personal budget, his $2,500
work-study grant is for food.
Ron Kent, Wayne State's director of work-study placement, said
employers can pay as little as 25 percent of a work-study student's
wages while the aid program picks up the rest.
"The loss of work-study will have a dramatic negative impact on our
students, but also on the many university departments and nonprofits
that benefit from hiring subsidized workers," Kent said.
"With more cuts likely on campus, I'm not sure how some of the
departments will be able to afford to get some jobs done. In so many
ways, this will impact the institution. This may not be apparent to
Preparing for fall classes, universities and their students are
forced to consider the threat of the program eliminations while the
budget process drags on. Negotiations are expected to result in
last-minute resolutions to beat the Oct. 1 budget deadline.
Leslie Marlowe, 26, knows how helpful these programs are and hopes
they'll continue. The Warren resident, who graduated from Wayne State
University in December, was able to get through college with help
from a work-study program, which allowed her to take a job on campus.
"Without work-study, I would have had to have a job off campus, and
that would have made it harder to go to school," she said.