President Mary Sue Coleman wants Michigan to win.

It was not a partisan athletic cheer she delivered in Lansing on Thursday, but a message of hope for the state as she addressed the importance of funding for higher education.

Coleman was one of several university presidents to address the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Higher Education. It was her final time appearing before the panel, she noted in her remarks. Coleman will retire in July.

“I am so encouraged to see the governor’s budget proposal this year with a substantial increase for higher education, the first since I came to Michigan in 2002,” she told lawmakers. 

“The governor’s proposal of a 6 percent increase is incredibly significant, a move I think the whole country will be watching. We have the chance here in Michigan to recapture national leadership with support of our public universities.

“The end result will be more affordable college costs for Michigan students and more innovation for our state’s economy. I firmly believe that states that do not invest in higher education will not win in the 21st century,” she said.  “And I want the state of Michigan to win.”

Coleman said, however, that she remains worried about the future of higher education.

“I worry that American higher education, our state’s remarkable system of public higher education and our very special public research universities are all threatened,” she said, by shrinking financial support from federal and state governments and by waning public confidence.

“I have been deeply troubled by the evaporation of state support. Across the nation, states are spending 28 percent less on college students than in 2008,” she said, adding that it appears Michigan is prepared to “reverse course” on support for higher education.

Coleman also said state universities will continue to do their part by making college as affordable as possible.

“That means cutting costs to be as efficient as possible, keeping tuition increases low, and increasing our philanthropic efforts, especially to help support student scholarships and excellence in academic programs.”

Last fall, U-M launched its $4 billion Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign and made raising $1 billion for student scholarships the campaign’s No. 1 priority.

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