November 19, 2009/Detroit Free Press
In order to save Michigan’s future, we need all hands on deck.
Right now, Lansing politicians are like a crew navigating a ship toward an iceberg – and we are on a collision course heading towards catastrophe. Michigan is going to be in grave danger if we don’t start making a commitment to our students who will ultimately be tasked with leading our state in the future.
Over time, that includes supporting and funding higher education. Right now, that means reinstating the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
The Michigan Promise Scholarship, the first universal college scholarship, sends a message to all students that they must continue their education to be successful in a 21st-Century economy. More than 96,000 students counted on the Promise to help pay for college this year alone.
That was until it was cut this year by the Legislature as a way to balance the budget. Even though it has been eliminated, the fight is not over; we must keep our Promise to those students and our commitment to Michigan’s future by reinstating funding for the Promise.
The elimination of the Promise Scholarship isn’t the only cut to education. In fact, over the past 30 years, funding for public universities has significantly declined. In 1977, state appropriations for public universities accounted for 64.6% of their total general revenues; today, that share stands below 30%.
This year alone, appropriations for the fifteen public universities were reduced by $43.9 million, on top of cuts to work study programs, financial aid and the Promise Scholarship. Over that same period of time, tuition prices have skyrocketed in an attempt to pay for the gap left from dwindling state appropriations.
Enough is enough. Students should not settle for elected officials who merely try to rearrange deckchairs on a ship set to sink. We need real solutions to protect Michigan’s future, and that starts with investing in our students through the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
Through meaningful reforms, we can reinstate the Michigan Promise Scholarship. But Lansing politics as usual is getting in the way. It is time that Lansing hears from students loud and clear that we support reforms to invest in education. We need real leadership to steer the ship away from catastrophe.
Please join me in contacting our legislators and urging them to phase in the Earned Income Tax Credit more slowly in order to reinstate the Promise Scholarship. You can find out who your state senator is by visiting http://senate.michigan.gov, or calling 517-373-2400.
As Michigan is heading full speed ahead toward disaster, we must demand action to invest in students by investing in tools that equip them for success. It is no surprise that businesses will continue to look for states that have a highly educated workforce; this means that we can’t let Michigan fall behind. We must invest in education and our future by reinstating the Michigan Promise Scholarship. Don’t let the hopes of a brighter future sink because we didn’t act.
Mitchell Rivard is president of the MSU College Democrats.