Higher ed budget deadline looms in Legislature

With just 15 days to go before the state’s fiscal year deadline, budgets for universities and community colleges for this school year are waiting to be finalized in the Legislature.  Votes are expected in coming days and MEA members are urged to contact their lawmakers to support the Senate and Governor’s funding plan.

Earlier this year, the Republican Senate-passed SBs 93-94, which mirror Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive budget recommendation by increasing one-time funding by 2% for all of Michigan’s state universities and community colleges. The increase would be distributed proportionately to each institution’s FY 2020-21 base operations amounts.

By contrast, House Republicans want to change how the state allocates funding to public colleges and universities. Their legislation, HBs 4400-01, would assign operational funding increases to universities based on student population instead of performance metrics. This would significantly alter the distribution formula for state appropriations to higher education, creating winners and losers among higher education institutions and adding budget instability at the most inopportune time given the ongoing pandemic. In addition, funding based on student enrollment has been criticized in the past for incentivizing high college enrollment rates rather than encouraging high-quality education.

Complicating matters are ongoing controversies about COVID-19 health and safety measures taken by higher education institutions – politicization of masking and vaccines may be a factor in getting budgets wrapped up by the September 30 deadline.

MEA members are asked to contact their lawmakers — please urge adoption of SBs 93-94 to provide a needed increase to higher education funding, ensure budget certainty for state universities and community colleges during this uncertain time, and not punish institutions for protecting the health and safety of their students and employees.

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