Higher Ed Budget - Big Three Almost Different
The state's Big Three research universities didn't get different funding and they didn't get a separate appropriations bill, but they did get special mention in a conference committee report that rolled out this morning just before noon and was passed by the House this evening on an 87-22 vote.

Throughout this budget cycle two questions swirled about the state's Higher Education funding budget. First, would the U's get back that was cut by executive order and negative supplemental in the last fiscal year? Secondly, how would the big three be treated?

Recall that Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM in her executive budget recommendation called for funding the likes of
Michigan State University, University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Wayne State University differently than how the remaining 12 universities were funded. She went so far as to suggest the Big Three have their own budget bill.

Today, when HB 4350 came out of committee, the Big Three remained in the same budget bill, got the same across the board increase (less than one percent) but got special recognition in their own “article” in the spending measure.

Rep. Pam BYRNES (D-Chelsea), chair of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee concurred with the governor's approach. Today, she argued the final approach does make progress towards separating out the three research institutions.

“The bill does make a bold statement about our three research universities,” Byrnes told reporters. “They are a category in and of themselves at the research level. They've generated significant economic growth here in

Byrnes added that under part of the budget lawmakers will be developing performance standards for the three research universities as well as performance standards, such as increased graduation rates, for the remaining 12 schools.

On the money lost side of the ledger, the budget is built on the base of spending that was in place after the negative supplemental and executive order budget cuts trimmed last year's appropriation by $25 million. In total, the conference committee report provides $1.89 billion of support, up from $1.6 billion from the last fiscal year.

The following are highlights of the final conference report on the state's higher education budget:

- The conference report included a one-percent across the board increase as compared to the adjusted FY 2006-2007 base. The Big Three will see a total funding increase of $8.1 million while the remaining 12 universities will see funding increase of $6 million.
- The conference report added $1.4 million to provide partial funding for unfunded Indian Tuition Waivers from 2005-2006. The House had originally wanted $3.6 million.
- Agriculture Experiment Station funding remains frozen at last year's level.
- The $58.7 million Tuition Grant Program (state scholarships for students going to private colleges) was trimmed by $2.1 million to $56.7 million — however program proponents contend that's better than facing the possibility of a gubernatorial veto of the entire $58.7 million — something that has been swirling as a possibility.
- Boilerplate was added to define “research university” as a public university classified as a “research university (very high research activity) under the 2005 Carnegie Classifications.

The breakdown of funding for the state's 15 universities follows (recall these are increases from the adjusted base of last year's funding (i.e. minus the $25 million):

- Michigan State University, $290.1 million, up $3 million or 1 percent
- UM - Ann Arbor $323.4 million, up $3.28 million, or 1 percent
- Wayne State University, $219 million, up $2.2 million or 1 percent

Remaining 12 universities

- Central Michigan University, $81.9 million, up $946,500 or 1.2 percent
- Eastern Michigan University, $77.7 million, up $818,700 or 1.1 percent
- Ferris State University, $49.7 million, up $529,500 or 1.1 percent
- Grand Valley State University, $63.3 million, up $784,100, or 1.3 percent
- Lake Superior State University, up $12.9 million, up $306,00 or 2.4 percent
- Michigan Tech, $49 million, up $527,100, or 1.1 percent
- Northern Michigan, $46.1 million, up 578,400 or 1.1 percent
- Oakland, $51.9 million, up $554,900, or 1.1 percent
- Saginaw Valley State University, $28.3 million, up $304,100 or 1.1 percent
- UM - Dearborn, $25.2 million, up $267,600, or 1.1 percent
- UM Flint, $21.3 million, up $228,800, or 1.1percent
- Western Michigan, $112.1 million, up $1.15 million or 1.1 percent.

Community Colleges Also See Modest Increase
Cuts made last year to the state's 28 community colleges during the last fiscal year were restored under a conference committee report on HB 4360, the Fiscal Year 2008 Community College Appropriation bill. The House passed the bill this evening on a 95-14 vote.

In total, the measure provides $318.9 million gross on community colleges — an increase over last year's $247.8 million (all General Fund). On average, schools saw a 1.2 percent funding increase in school operations spending. The total budget rose by 1.1 percent general fund.

Highlights of the budget include:

- The conference committee report did not include additional funding to support increases student nursing enrollment.

Wayne Community College saw a $225,000 restoration of a FY 2003-2004 $450,000 reduction

- The conference report dropped $3.2 million in funding the House included to provide equity to community colleges that did not receive the percentage increase that Higher Education received in FY 2005-2006.