Snyder needs to increase higher-ed funding, say two local legislators in university districts
LANSING — State Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Mount Pleasant) and Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. (D-East Lansing) may be on opposite side of Lansing politics, but they do agree on one thing: Gov. Rick Snyder isn't doing enough to support higher education.
The two legislators commented on funding public universities following Snyder's 2017 State of the State address on Jan. 17. Snyder made no mention of funding four-year state universities or student loan debt in his speech.
Hauck, who was recently elected to represent Isabella County, and Hertel said they wished the governor spoke more about affordability and student loan debt in his address.
"I think that’s the No. 1 issue we’re dealing with and not talking about," Hertel said. "Thirty years ago, 80 percent of tuition was paid for by the state. That number has flipped, and we wonder why tuition is so expensive. We’re the reason that’s happening."
Hertel said he and his colleagues from both parties talk a lot about affordability, but have failed to come up with a solution to the problem.
"There seems to be this faux anger about tuition costs, but we should look in the mirror," Hertel said. "It’s our responsibility."
That's not to say there isn't some headway on the issue. Hertel planned to introduce a Student Loan Tax Credit yesterday. The credit would allow college students to write off the first five years of their loans once they graduate.
"We think that would help, but I still think the No. 1 issue is to fund our schools," Hertel said.
Hauck, a former small business owner, agreed, taking a conservative approach to explaining the issue of rising tuition and debt.
"We say that if we raise taxes, businesses will pass those costs onto their customers," Hauck said. "It's the same with tuition and universities. That's where we need to stop that and raise funding for higher education."
Hauck said he plans to work with his colleagues to push through a plan to curb debt. He did not say, however, if he supports Hertel's tax credit.