Snyder proposes 6.1-percent higher education funding increase, CMU could see additional $5.8 million

Gov. Rick Snyder announced Wednesday he would raise state appropriations for public universities by 6.1 percent for the 2015 fiscal year.

The total higher education appropriation equates to $80.3 million in funding for the state's 15 public universities, according to the budget proposal published on the state of Michigan website.

The increase is a step toward restoring university appropriations since funding began to decrease more than a decade ago. During Snyder's inaugural year in 2011, state appropriations were cut by 15 percent.

Snyder's proposal could mean a 7.8-percent increase in one-time state appropriations to CMU, resulting in a total of $79.3 million in funding. Last year's appropriations totaled in at $73.5 million.

Kathy Wilbur, vice president of development and external relations, said the funds are welcome and are important for the 2015 budget cycle.

"It’s a very nice increase, we’re obviously pleased," Wilbur said. "I think you know, too, this is just the beginning step in our budgeting process. We need to make sure we hold on to that during the legislative process."

Other appropriation increases to education were announced in his address to Lansing lawmakers, including a 2.3-percent increase for K-12 schools and a 3-percent increase for community colleges. Snyder also proposed $10 million in emergency relief funds for financially strapped school districts.

Although the increase has been applauded by both lawmakers and university officials across the state, the funds come with a few caveats. Public universities can only receive the full amount if those universities keep tuition increases below 3.2 percent.

Wilbur said the CMU Board of Trustees would likely keep the tuition restrictions in mind.

"We have been the lowest in the state for tuition increases for three years in a row," she said. "We have raised tuition, but I think you can look to that history. I expect the board to keep that in mind. Nobody wants to lose that kind of state support."

The fact that the proposal is only one-time funding is also a consideration for Wilbur and the trustees.

"This proposal for this year, while great, is one-time funding," she said. "It's not built into our base funding. We are happy and we’ll obviously work to keep it."

State appropriations through the years

Even if the state legislature approves Snyder's proposal, appropriations are still down significantly from even 20 years ago, when state funding constituted 60 percent of CMU's budget. That number stands at under 20 percent today, meaning tuition rates and other prices have grown to make up for the losses.

Since 2000, Michigan's public universities have seen their appropriations cut seven times. Only once, in 2001, did universities see a funding increase at a level as significant as Snyder's proposed 2015 increase.

Wilbur said this proposal is separate from Snyder's capital outlay funding, which has not been announced.

"As I understand it, he did not recommend capital outlay," she said. "Gov. Snyder did propose, and he did this last year but it never came to fruition, recommend another $100 million just for engineering schools and programs to increase number of engineers that will remain in Michigan. It's a proposal that doesn't have a lot of detail, and we’ll have to fight for and be advocates for that."

As to why that particular measure didn't gain traction, Wilbur said the lack of details made some legislators nervous.

"Last year, some legislators still felt uncomfortable that the budget was looking that good, and there was never much detail put into the proposal to begin with," she said. "Without much detail, some legislators were cautious and unwilling to step up and support it. I haven’t seen the language yet this year, but from the conversations I've had with those in Lansing, there's more detail to it this year"


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