|Bauer: Scholarship cuts will weaken Michigan|
Lansing State Journal/August 30, 2009
As the Oct. 1 deadline to resolve the state's budget deficit draws nearer, my colleagues and I are looking at ways to resolve a budget deficit of almost $2 billion. With a deficit this size, it's imperative that we work across the aisle to find ways to put our state back on sound financial footing. We have many difficult decisions to make in the days ahead, and we need everybody at the table to get Michigan on the right track.
However, many of the cuts being proposed in the Senate go too far. They make potentially dangerous cuts to vital services such as fire and police protection for local municipalities, as well as other services on which our residents rely.
Higher education has been particularly hard-hit by the Senate. Its plan slashes many financial aid programs for students and completely eliminates the Michigan Promise Scholarship program.
The removal of the Promise Grant program is particularly troublesome to me. As a former teacher, I know the difficulties that many students have in getting financial aid to continue their education. The Promise Grants give students who did well in school the opportunity to attend a Michigan community college, university or vocational program by providing up to $4,000 over the course of their education. The Promise Grant allows many students to realize their dream of going to college.
Unfortunately, this assault on higher education is part of a sad trend in this country, pushed by those who believe it is not worth the investment - especially not while we're in a budget crisis.
That's the kind of thinking that will keep us mired in this economic slump.
The recent trends are not encouraging. The United States recently fell to 10th in the world in the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who have earned a post-high school degree, according to the Lumina Foundation. We've allowed the rest of the world to pass us by, and it's our kids who will suffer for it.
In this interconnected world, we need to realize that we're not just competing with other states for jobs and businesses. We're competing with China, Germany and Japan. They've invested in giving their kids the tools and skills to compete in a global economy. We can't allow Michigan students to fall behind.
If we want to pull our state out of this economic decline, we must continue to invest in education. Cutting programs that help students compete for the good jobs of the 21st century not only shortchanges our kids, it's counterproductive and forces businesses looking for a well-educated work force to look elsewhere.
We're blessed to have some of the world's best universities and community colleges here in Michigan. We should be trying to find ways to make it easier for our kids to attend these schools, not turning our backs on them. If we want a better, stronger Michigan, we simply cannot afford anything less than the best possible education for our children.