Senate Dems toss hat into college costs debate

College would be cheaper for Michigan families under a proposal made in Lansing the day after Bridge Magazine published an analysis of public university costs.

That analysis, published Tuesday, found that Michigan families pay more to attend their state’s public universities than do families in almost any other state. Twelve of Michigan’s 15 public universities have average net costs higher than the median for peer institutions across the nation. Four years at the University of Michigan, for example, costs about $33,000 more than four years at the Universityof North Carolina for Tar Heel State residents.

Bridge's analysis found that the net cost of Michigan’s public universities has gone up in concert with two other trends: rising college costs nationally and a shrinking measure of direct state support for Michigan schools.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats unveiled a plan that would have the state pay the median price of tuition for students who had attended Michigan schools from kindergarten through high school. If the plan was in effect this year, students would be eligible for up to $9,500 toward tuition. The grant would be renewable for four years.

The average net cost at the state’s public universities (which includes tuition, fees and housing, minus grants and scholarships) in 2008-09 ranged from a low of $8,689 at the University of Michigan-Dearborn to $16,888 at the University of Michigan a tAnn Arbor.

“We've got to do something bold to say Michigan believes in education and this is a great place to come and locate your business because we've got the work force you need," Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, told the Associated Press.

There are about 230,000 full-time, in-state students attendingMichigan’s public universities. Full grants for all of them would cost the state about $2.1 billion a year. Democrats estimate the cost of their plan at $1.8 billion annually.

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Sun, 01/15/2012 - 4:00pm
Another terrible idea! Turn college into another entittlement! This will ruin the already dicey value of alot of college and bankrupt the state in one swoop. How's this idea working in CA?
Tue, 01/17/2012 - 8:18pm
This well-intentioned proposal has no chance of passage, Besides, Michigan schools have a high number of transient youngsters, popping in and out of schools all through K-12? Should they be denied?
Howard Wetters
Thu, 05/24/2012 - 9:20am
If the state can afford to lower business taxes by $1.8 billion, which goes to an incredibly small portion of the state population and is a very concentrated investment of resources, why can't we diversify our investment portfolio by investing in the state's students that are the key to Michigan's economic future? This is a muti-level diversified investment in our future. Studies of what business locators top priorities show that an educated workforce is more important than tax policy. If we transform our workforce the companies will come here. Having said that, I agree this proposal is unlikely to succeed. How about something less aggressive. Let's instead make money spent of higher education 100% tax deductible on Michigan Income Tax returns. Let's make it a broader benefit that applies to everyone who files a return here. Second, let's restore the Promise Scholarship for four years. That $2,000 per year scholarship will allow everyone a chance to go through community college and lessen the cost of four year institutions by $8,000. Finally, let's use the state bonding authority to offer offer low interest student loans to those students who have high interest rate debt. This invests in all our students and our state's future and gives the Republicans a way to cut taxes. This is a far more strategic investment of tax dollars than just lowering the state income tax rate as they are now proposing.
Dave from MI
Wed, 06/20/2012 - 9:03pm
Mr. Wetters, you are making a proposal that makes sense. That is not allowed in government, please try again, but this time be more partisan and more vague.