BIG RAPIDS – Ferris State University President David Eisler presented testimony to the Michigan State Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education today (March 8) in Ferris’ Interdisciplinary Resource Center in Big Rapids. Also presenting testimony were Lake Superior State University, Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan-Flint.
Introducing his remarks, Eisler thanked lawmakers and the Ferris Board of Trustees for their work on behalf of the university, and acknowledged support from state legislators that is leading to construction of a new Michigan College of Optometry building, which is currently underway on Ferris’ Big Rapids campus.
Among the topics Eisler focused on during his presentation were access to higher education, the decade-long decline in funding for Michigan universities and erosion of student financial aid. In discussing access to a college degree, Eisler noted that Ferris is living its historic mission of providing opportunity by being Michigan’s fastest growing university as it celebrates its 125th year as an institution of higher education.
“In a time when the need for a bachelor’s degree has never been greater, I am proud that 30 percent of all enrollment growth for Michigan public universities in the past decade has been at Ferris State University,” he said.
Eisler pointed out that the state’s current budget slashed general fund support for student financial aid, which dropped from $111 million to $48 million – a decline of 56.8 percent. Additionally, the Merit Award Trust fund was decreased by 71.6 percent. “In one year this removed 63.9 percent of the financial support Michigan had provided our students,” Eisler said.
And, while he lauded lawmakers for increasing the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) by $6 million, or 23.8 percent for the current year, Eisler urged legislators to reject a proposed executive budget that would drastically reduce TIP support. Under the proposal, first- and second-year support, which currently covers two years of university tuition, would be reduced to community college tuition levels, and eliminate the more modest third and fourth year of the program.
Eisler called upon first-year Print Management student Melissa DiViertri to speak to how the TIP program expands access to higher education. “I have two campus jobs and am involved in multiple groups on campus,” DiViertri said. “I am learning it all here, at Ferris State University, and want to do everything possible to continue my education at Ferris because this university offers me what I need to be successful in my education.”
Eisler ended his testimony by reiterating his belief that restoring funding for Michigan’s universities is not only in the best interest of students, but is essential for the state’s future economic success – by investing in the human capital that will be the engine of that future economic growth.