Division over eliminating the $4,000 Promise Grant continued to run deep
Wednesday with two of the three Democrats on the higher education
conference committee - including the chair - voting against the budget. 

In the end, it took Rep. George Cushingberry Jr.
<> 's
(D-Detroit) vote to push the conference report
<>  on HB 4441
d=1&SR=1&Session=2009&BillType=HB&BillNum=4441> out of committee and
onto the floor where it faces an uncertain future. 

Mr. Cushingberry said he plans to introduce a supplemental that would
fund the Promise Grant, but he stopped short of naming a specific
revenue source to restore funding. 

"To my friends, don't come to talk to me unless you have a revenue
source to replace those funds," Mr. Cushingberry said. "It's time to
grow up and be men and women who have the guts to put our money where
our mouth is."

As the budget was reported out on a 4-2 vote, with Rep. Joan Bauer
(D-Lansing) and Sen. Jim Barcia
(D-Bay City) dissenting, both Democrats said the state made a promise to
these students and reneging on that would force them to figure out how
to pay for school this semester. 

Ms. Bauer expressed hope for a supplemental, but she said with other
cuts to scholarship programs Michigan would now rank in the bottom third
for state support for college students. 

Sen. Tony Stamas
(R-Midland) said the budget simply represents the target legislators
were given. 

Governor Jennifer Granholm
<> 's
press office denounced the cuts.

"Governor Granholm strongly opposes the higher education conference
report. The governor wants a budget that protects the Michigan Promise
scholarship that helps families pay tuition. We applaud Representative
Bauer and Senator Barcia for standing up for Michigan college students
and their families."

Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State
Universities of Michigan, said the cuts to higher education would be
devastating for students. 

He said the state needs a new revenue source for these "top priorities,"
but he didn't say what that should be. 

"We've got to start investing in Michigan," he said. "There's no
strategic vision."

Overall, the budget totals $1.6 billion, of which $1.5 billion comes
from the general fund. That represents an 8.4 percent general fund cut
from the current fiscal year. 

Universities would see a 0.4 percent cut to their operational budgets,
but would also receive funding from the federal stimulus. The
Agriculture Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service also
would be cut by 0.4 percent. 

Ms. Bauer said she was happy to see the King-Chavez-Parks grants were
maintained, but voiced concern over the part-time independent student,
Michigan Education Opportunity and nursing scholarship financial aid
programs that were cut. 

The Tuition Grant program, which goes to need-based students attending
private colleges, also received a cut of 44 percent ($25 million).