State budgets don’t rate higher education or research as top priorities, the presidents of three of Michigan’s largest universities argue, and President Donald Trump’s funding proposals make matters worse.
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, and Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson join Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson at the Mackinac Policy Conference to talk research and funding, as well as the rising cost of higher education. The three schools comprise the University Research Corridor—now in its tenth year—which contributes $16.5 billion to the state economy.
“Research doesn’t make money, it takes money,” says Wilson. “I don’t think the state values research as much as it values other areas of education.”
After slashing higher education funding by 15 percent across the board in 2012, the state Legislature has increased funding to universities six years in a row. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) recommended a funding increase of $36.6 million to state public universities in his 2018 budget proposal, but legislators have yet to pass a final budget. The presidents agree lagging state funding ultimately hurts students.
“The state doesn’t make enough revenue for long-term investments,” says Schlissel. “When adjusted for inflation, the University of Michigan gets the same number of dollars as 1997. Higher education is more expensive, and trickle-down effects are just awful for the state.”
“I have to take financial aid money from somewhere else, then,” Simon adds.
All three administrators also criticize Trump’s plans to drastically cut federal support of research in the sciences and arts.
“If multigenerational investment in critical research stops suddenly for four years, you can’t just hope to start it up again in the next administration,” says Schlissel.
To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.