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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

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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