State University Presidents want Higher-Ed Investment

State University Presidents want Higher-Ed Investment
The Detroit Free Press
The presidents of Michigan’s three largest universities — touting their institutions as a key to Michigan’s economic recovery — asked lawmakers today to stop the erosion of state support for higher education.

The state’s “return to economic health” means building partnerships and capacity in areas like information technology, health care, alternative energy, and hybrid vehicles, Wayne State University President Jay Noren told a House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.

The state’s 15 public universities are taking turns outlining their strengths to the subcommittee, and today heard from the University Research Corridor – WSU, University of Michigan and Michigan State University – as well as Saginaw Valley State University.

For the past few years, the URC has been grouped together in the state budget, though they're not asking for preferential treatment in pure dollars. In fact, like the other 12 universities, they’ve been asked by Gov. Granholm to freeze tuition. And, like the others, they’re depending on federal stimulus money to make up the governor’s 3% cut in state funding.

Several years of eroding state support, the presidents said, can hurt the URC’s ability to drive economic recovery and provide access to all students.

Already, the partnership — the youngest among six other university research consortiums across the country — generated $1.38 billion in research and development. The successes are highlighted, in part, by last year’s decision by the U.S. Department of Energy to build a $550 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at MSU, U-M’s announcement that it will buy the former Pfizer property in Ann Arbor, and WSU’s continuing work with start-up businesses at TechTown, Noren said.

All this, in turns, means jobs.

“There is also an enormous amount of leverage across the URC,” MSU President Lou Anna Simon said.

In the meantime, universities are reaching out to students of all income levels, providing financial aid to most students, said U-M’s President Mary Sue Coleman.

She said U-M makes a pledge to all would-be students: “We will not turn you away. It just won’t happen.”

SVSU President Eric Gilbertson said his school offers something different to the state — primarily undergraduate education — but its needs are no less.

Its tuition is the lowest of the 15 public universities and it has continued to grow, and a drop in state aid makes it increasingly difficult to pay bills — whether salaries for staff and faculty or its utilities.

State support has dropped from $4,300 per student in 1999 to $3,462 in the governor’s proposed budget, he said.

“I can’t just demand those costs go away,” he said, after the hearing.

Contact ROBIN ERB at 313-222-2708 or rerb@freepress.com.

Posted on Tuesday, March 03, 2009 (Archive on Monday, January 01, 0001)
Posted by artemis  Contributed by artemis
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