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September 23, 2019

Higher education budgets do little to correct decades of divestment

MICHIGAN — Today, AFT Michigan blasted the Republican Legislature’s proposed budgets for the state’s community colleges and public universities. Republican lawmakers only allocated increases of 1 percent for universities and community colleges, which fail to keep up with inflation or take into account decades of disinvestment. Votes are anticipated on both budgets in the House and Senate Tuesday, and AFT Michigan calls on legislators to increase the funding levels before sending budgets to Governor Whitmer.

“If we were giving out awards for budget work, Republicans wouldn’t even get a participation ribbon. It’s very clear they’re not taking their duties to fund higher education seriously,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan. “The measly increases for universities and community colleges outlined in this budget fail to address the huge problems of the student loan crisis and the decades of disinvestment we need to make up for to improve higher education access and outcomes. Their budgets don’t even come close to the funding outlined in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s budget proposal, which Republicans ignored for months while they went on vacation.”

In 2001, the state spent $1.95 billion on Michigan’s public universities. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be $2.75 billion today. In the budget passed today, the total university budget would be $1.67 billion.

In 2001, the state spent $320 million on community colleges. Adjusted for inflation, that amount would be $462 million today. Yet today, the Republican Legislature passed a budget with total community college funding of $408 million.

“These budgets continue to push the responsibility to fund higher education to students and lower-paid employees. Students and educators should be outraged because they’re the ones who are getting railroaded by this budget,” Hecker continued. “It’s time to provide equitable investments in higher education. Budgets reflect values, and these make it clear that Republicans do not value education.” 

The Michigan Legislature is expected to vote on the budgets for universities (HB 4236) and community colleges (SB 134) tomorrow.

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