|Students say state should keep its 'Promise'|
by Barrie Barber
July 29, 2009/The Saginaw News
Chad E. Young needs the $4,000 Promise scholarship to attend Saginaw Valley State University.
"For many, including myself, it can be the difference in attending school," said the 20-year-old Sault Ste. Marie political science major who's president of the SVSU College Democrats.
Faced with unprecedented budget pressures, state lawmakers may cut the state-paid scholarships to wipe out a $1.8 billion general fund budget deficit. The scholarship to students with high state test scores pays $1,000 for each of the first two years of college and $2,000 for the last two years. It costs about $140 million among 96,766 students this year.
Students gathered to demonstrate in support of the scholarships Wednesday in Pioneer Hall on the Kochville Township campus.
"We have some very difficult, painful choices to make, but completely abolishing the Michigan Promise scholarship is not something the governor will support," said Liz Boyd, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm's spokeswoman.
Sen. Roger N. Kahn voted for a Senate spending plan to eliminate cash to the scholarships.
"Do I want to reduce them? No," said the Saginaw Township Republican, who said he has a son in college. "Unfortunately, when you have no money, you are often backed into a corner and forced to make decisions you don't want to make."
Rules limit where Michigan may spend federal stimulus dollars, he added.
Sen. James A. Barcia, a Bay City Democrat, voted in the Senate against eliminating the Promise scholarship money.
"I simply cannot support eliminating the Promise scholarship to balance the budget," said Barcia, vice chairman of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. "I might be open to some reduction in spending but certainly believe we have an obligation to these students to help them attain their higher educaiton goals.
"We need to train and educate our workforce to transform into this new economy," he said. "Without that, we will continue to decline as a state."
The House has yet to vote. State Rep. Kenneth B. Horn, a Frankenmuth Republican and father of two college-age children, said he'll support the GOP caucus' stand, reluctantly.
"It's one of those cuts that breaks my heart," he said. "... I have to stick with tough decisions."
Rep. Jeff Mayes, a Bay City Democrat, said an educated workforce is vital to Michigan's economic future, and the Promise scholarships have empowered families to send children on to a higher education. He's waiting to see where budget negotiations end before he determines how he'll vote.
"If we have to choose between something or nothing, I would choose something," he said.
The Saginaw News could not reach state Rep. Andy Coulouris, a Saginaw Democrat, for comment.