Gov. Snyder steps forward on education funding; now it is up to the Legislature

Written by: Donald Heller

Primary Source: The Dean’s Blog

Courtesy Governor’s website

Last week, I posted about the budget surplus projected in the state of Michigan, and the plans that had been espoused by Republicans and Democrats for dealing with it.  In that post, I showed how state funding for both K-12 and higher education had declined precipitously over the prior 10 years, and I called for a reinvestment in education at both levels.

Yesterday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered his 2014-15 budget to the Legislature.  He has recommended that the bulk of the surplus be spent in a variety of categories.  It calls for increases in both K-12 and higher education funding: a 2.8 percent increase for K-12; 3 percent for community colleges; and 6.1 percent for the state’s 15 public universities and financial aid.  While these increases don’t make up for the cuts imposed by Governor Snyder, his predecessors, and the Michigan Legislature – higher education funding was cut by 15 percent in fiscal year 2012 alone – the funding boost is at least a step in the right direction.

The largest increase in education funding is for the state’s universities, but they are not all guaranteed to see the 6.1 percent increase.  Half of the recommended increase will be allocated to the universities based on how they fare on a series of performance measures.  These measures, first put in place two years ago, include, “weighted undergraduate completions in critical skill areas, research expenditures, 6-year graduation rates, total completions, administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures, and a new metric on the number of students receiving Pell Grants” (p. B-37 of the governor’s budget).

Some observers accused the governor of pandering to voters in an election year (Snyder is running for re-election in the fall) by proposing spending increases in popular programs, but I don’t believe this is a fair accusation.  While we all would have liked to have seen increases the last few years as well, the reality is that the state’s finances are in much better shape today than they were the last few years.  So while the governor deserves credit for proposing these increases, it is now up to the Legislature to pass his budget to ensure that education funding starts what will likely be a long recovery to return to pre-recession levels.

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Donald Heller
Donald E. Heller is Dean of the College of Education and a professor in the Department of Educational Administration at Michigan State University. Prior to his appointment in January, 2012, he was Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and professor of education and senior scientist at The Pennsylvania State University. He also has held a faculty appointment at the University of Michigan. His teaching and research is in the areas of educational economics, public policy, and finance, with a primary focus on issues of college access and choice for low-income and minority students. He has consulted on higher education policy issues with university systems and policymaking organizations in California, Colorado, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Washington, Washington DC, and West Virginia, and has testified in front of Congressional committees, state legislatures, and in federal court cases as an expert witness. Before his academic career, he spent a decade as an information technology manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Donald Heller

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