Phil Power: State Spends Too Little On Higher Ed (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture
Thursday, January 19, 2012

After half a century of observing discussions about public policy in this state, what I find amazing is not that people have different views — it’s that they so often seem to be living in different universes.

Take Michigan universities. Two studies in last week’s Bridge, The Center for Michigan’s online magazine, showed that tuition at Michigan public colleges is higher than for nearly every comparable school around the country. Not surprisingly, student debt in our state has ballooned to $1.8 billion for last year alone. Talk to university officials, and they have no doubt why this is so: They say it’s the result of our governors and legislatures choosing — for decades — to shortchange higher education. The less state support, the argument goes, the higher schools have to push tuition.

There is, indeed, evidence for this: In the 1970s, the state covered around three-quarters of total university costs; today, the numbers are reversed. Not surprisingly, tuition has soared.

Consequently, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that Michigan has imposed a stiff “college use tax” on hundreds of thousands of Michigan students and their families.

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