GRAND RAPIDS, Mich — Higher education isn’t always about dollars to Gov. Rick Snyder.
During a Friday address at the Michigan Press Association’s annual conference, Snyder explained that improving the quality of education, and keeping students in Michigan, must be considered over investments.
Despite making no mention of higher education at his January State of the State address, Snyder told attendees in Grand Rapids that higher education is a priority for his administration.
“It’s not just about spending money,” Snyder said in response to a question raised by Central Michigan Life at the conference. “We need to be looking at student growth and making investments with real return.”
After significant funding cuts were made to state appropriations for universities last year, Snyder said his administration has focused on smaller, vocational schools.
“We had to do some tough things in 2012,” he said. “We’ve very diligent about investing in community colleges.”
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said he is hoping to keep expenses low for students. He said Snyder will announce plans for education spending in his Wednesday budget recommendations, and that comparing student growth among Michigan universities can be problematic.
“It’s very difficult to compare universities in Michigan,” Richardville said. “They’re very specialized. You want to compare apples to apples. That’s not what we have here.”
College students, Richardville said, should be encouraged to stay in Michigan. And if graduates are to return to the state, it must be economically healthy for them to be successful. He said the Central Michigan University College of Medicine is a prime example of a program that encourages students to stay in the state
“We make an investment in your future, and you provide the return,” he said to college students. “I’d be very open to more programs like CMED.”
Michigan House of Representatives Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Grand Rapids, said reducing expenses for students of higher education is a priority.
He said the administration has practiced “tuition restraint” to keep costs low at universities over the last three years.
“It’s about the burden students take on with tuition,” Bolger said. “We try to make sure we relieve the burden on students.”
To bring Michigan graduates back, Bolger said there must be opportunities in place. He said he hopes rebuilding the state’s economy will make Michigan more attractive to students entering the workforce.
“Having jobs and career opportunities is key,” Bolger said. “We need to have people returning. We have to get those kids back. They can be a number in Chicago or a pioneer in Detroit.”
Snyder also spoke about increasing funding for K-12 education and expanding preschools. He said he invested $1.2 million in elementary and high schools, and created 18,000 openings for preschool students during his term.
“The goal is to make Michigan a no-wait state for preschool,” Snyder said. “So we’re adding more slots.”