12 Universities Join In Fight For Appropriations
The state's 12 smaller public universities have joined together to form a coalition to fight a move to split higher education appropriations into two bills * one bill for the big three universities and one for the 12 smaller ones.
This possibility has been tossed around for a year or so, but it really gained steam this year when Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM proposed the split in her budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2007, with a 2.5 percent increase going to the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University. The other 12 would have their budgets addressed in a separate bill, but would also receive a 2.5 percent increase.
Granholm's move prompted the 12 other universities to form the Education Alliance for Michigan.
"Michigan's public universities should continue to collaborate, not separate," said Eastern Michigan President John FALLON. "My fellow university presidents and I are frankly disappointed that U of M, MSU and Wayne State have turned their backs on the real goal * securing more funding for all of Michigan's students."
The universities fear that the division will result in them getting fewer increases and further widen the funding gap between the three research universities and those that have formed the Education Alliance for Michigan.
The larger universities already get, on average, $3,000 per student more from the state than the other universities, said Oakland University President Gary RUSSI, who is concerned this gap will increase to a more than $8,000 per pupil difference.
As a result, the universities will have to get more and more funding from tuition hikes and private donations, said Janet PISANESCHI of Western Michigan University.
Terry DENBOW, vice president of university relations for MSU, said the three larger universities are not trying to pit one institution against another.
"It is a false premise that anyone is advocating one institution or one set of institutions being advantaged at the expense of others," Denbow said. "That's not what we're talking about."
Denbow said the measure is about investment and investment strategy. As a group, the big three will have a lot of clout when people are looking where to invest research and development money.
"This will not be at the expense of anyone else," he said. "We will continue to be vigorous advocates for all public universities."
Russi agreed that the other three universities are research universities, but he pointed out that the 12 in alliance are research "intensive," which means they also focus on research.
"We collectively give a huge contribution to research and development in this state and to recognize only three institutes as research institutes will challenge the other 12 to be able to compete," Russi said.
The alliance also made the case that they produce two-thirds of the state's undergraduates. And, unlike the larger universities, most of their undergraduate students actually stay in Michigan after they graduate.
"In many cases we are the top employer," Russi said. "Two-tiered" appropriations systems will make it more difficult for these universities to keep this up. The system also doesn't make sense because these universities produce the most undergraduate students and keep them in the state, which is one of the Governor's goals.
MIRS asked Russi if Granholm's call for separate appropriations bills is counterintuitive to her goal to double the number of college graduates in Michigan.
"It is counterintuitive," Russi said based on the fact that these 12 universities contribute a lot economically to the state and host the majority of the state's undergraduates.
Budget Office Spokesman Greg BIRD said he can't see how the separation would be counterintuitive to the Governor's goal.
"The reason for the proposal to separate is because we're really trying to recognize their unique contribution to the state's economy," Bird said.
The three larger universities attract national and international investment through graduate programs, patents and inventions, he said. As part of the proposal, the universities will also have to provide an annual report stating their contributions to the state's economy.
The alliance held a media roundtable at the Capitol this afternoon and met with Senators and House members to talk about the alliance.