Gov. Rick Snyder released his proposal for the state’s fiscal year 2015 budget on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Included in the budget was a significant increase to higher education funding of 6.1 percent. In doing so, the governor stated his desire to reverse the decline in state funding for Michigan students.
“This is a very positive proposal from the governor. It raises higher education as a priority for our state, something on which there is common agreement. I applaud this action by the governor to provide much needed support for higher education,” said David Eisler, president of Ferris State University.
Under the governor’s proposed higher education budget, overall, average funding for public universities in Michigan would rise 6.1 percent. Ferris would gain about $3.5 million in operating funds on a current state appropriation of $45.6 million under the Gov. Snyder’s budget.
Half of the proposed funding would be distributed on a proportional basis from fiscal year 2011 funding. The remainder would be distributed using the state’s metrics that include how individual institutions meet performance guidelines in such areas as total degrees conferred, degrees granted in critical skills areas (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM) and six-year graduation rate. In meeting or exceeding the performance metrics, Ferris has been responsive to the state’s priorities of producing graduates, especially those in critical STEM areas. The governor also proposes adding a metric based on the number of Pell Grant students a university is educating.
While this is a forward-looking proposal that continues to incent universities to produce graduates who will accelerate the state’s recovery, Eisler noted that the governor’s proposal is just the first step in the budget-making process. The governor’s budget will be reviewed by both the Michigan House and Senate before a final state budget is passed and approved.
“The governor’s budget would help Ferris State University remain affordable for students looking to earn a degree geared toward a career. The Ferris community – especially our students – appreciate this commitment to buttressing a path to college degrees and well-paying jobs. This kind of investment in higher education is very important to degree affordability, which is an issue Ferris has spent much time and energy in tackling,” Eisler said.
The governor’s budget also proposes planning support for the expansion of Ferris’ Swan Building Annex. This construction project would double the space for the university’s Welding Engineering Technology program and create additional space for a Center for Advanced Manufacturing. The Ferris welding program is considered among the best in the country, and the manufacturing program produces graduates much in demand by area industries. Support for this project will allow Ferris to accept more students into the welding program, which currently has a waiting list of applicants, as well as build and expand the manufacturing programs West Michigan’s economy needs.
Eisler’s comments echo those of Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. “Michigan’s public universities are pleased to see Gov. Snyder propose a substantial increase in support for higher education. The states with the most college graduates are those leading the way in prosperity, and in Michigan the best way to increase college attainment is to invest in our institutions creating those graduates. We view the governor’s recommendation as a significant and strategic reinvestment in Michigan’s public universities.”