Senate Republicans Scrap University Tuition Restraint Clause

Senate Republicans Scrap University Tuition Restraint Clause
April 19, 2011/Mlive.com

By Peter Luke

Day 108: This is one in a series of posts assessing key developments during Gov. Rick Snyder's self-imposed 182 days to chart a new course for Michigan by July 1. For earlier posts go to mlive.com/stateofchange.

Michigan’s 15 public universities would face a maximum 15 percent cut in state aid next year instead of the 22 percent proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, according to the higher education budget bill approved by Senate subcommittee today.

Snyder’s budget included an $83 million pool of tuition restraint incentive funding to be awarded to schools that hold tuition to 7.1 percent, effectively reducing their cut to 15 percent. Senate Republicans today simply scrapped the restraint program and transferred the cash into the universities’ state aid base.

“All the universities have promised me that if I took that out they would stay within (7.1 percent) and I’m going to hold them to that,” said Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, the subcommittee chair. “If they raise (tuition) above what the governor proposed, then they’ll face the consequences in next year’s budget.”

Michael Boulus, head of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said the universities opposed the tuition restraint language because “we have boards that for 150 years have been setting tuition, aligning priorities with budgets and they should continue to make those decisions.”

The Senate bill, moreover, includes none of the reporting language in a House version, including requirements that universities, including the University of Michigan, file reports with the Legislature on their embryonic stem cell research activities.

The budget bill includes $500 million in discretionary general fund dollars to replace a half-billion in school aid funding being redirected back to K-12. Snyder had proposed using $700 million in school aid funding for universities that K-12 school groups, and apparently a number of Republican lawmakers, objected too.

Keeping that $500 million for K-12 operations mitigates proposed per-pupil funding cuts by $170 and provides for a $200 million pool of funds for K-12 districts that enact reforms sought by the Legislature. To help pay for it all, Republicans are making deeper cuts, including $250 million in the departments of Community Health, Corrections and Human Services.

Unlike the K-12 budget, the university spending plan does not include a requirement that the colleges require employees to pay 20 percent of their health insurance premium. According to a report by Schuitmaker’s committee, employees at seven universities pay an average of less than 20 percent. They are Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, Michigan State, Northern Michigan, Oakland. Western Michigan is close to 20 percent. Grand Valley, Michigan Tech, the University of Michigan’s three campuses and Wayne State are at or exceed 20 percent.

A Presidents Council report said the average per-employee cost of health insurance is $9,046 with the average employee cost being $1,183, or 13 percent.

A separate Senate bill seeks to require all public employees in the state, including university workers, pay a minimum of 20 percent.

Contact Peter Luke at (517) 487-8888 ext. 235 or e-mail him at pluke@boothmichigan.com

Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 (Archive on Monday, January 01, 0001)
Posted by rcline  Contributed by rcline
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