President Mark Schlissel urged state lawmakers Thursday to provide more funding for direct-to-student need-based financial aid as a way to boost degree attainment, cut student debt, improve the state economy and increase per-capita income.
Schlissel delivered the remarks to members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education as the state Legislature begins considering budget appropriations for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Schlissel made the case that greater investment in student aid would “allow students more freedom to decide where they wish to study in Michigan, and encourage schools to compete for the best students, regardless of their family income.”
In her State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for a statewide goal of increasing the number of Michiganders with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent by 2030, as well as funding for a scholarship for debt-free community college or two years at a university.
“We must ensure that every Michigander has a path to skills that lead to a good job,” Whitmer said in the address.
Whitmer is expected to offer her budget recommendations early next month.
“Direct-to-student need-based aid would help to address concerns about college affordability that I frequently hear when I travel to communities in our state, while also aligning with Governor Whitmer’s pledge to increase post-secondary attainment in Michigan,” Schlissel said.
In his testimony, Schlissel highlighted the University of Michigan’s own recent efforts in providing affordable higher education options for Michigan’s students and families, specifically through programs like the HAIL Scholarship and the Go Blue Guarantee. He also underscored the university’s ongoing cost-cutting efforts.
The guarantee, which took effect last year, includes a promise of free tuition for in-state students whose families earn less than $65,000 and have assets totaling less than $50,000. It also provides tuition support to qualified Michigan families with incomes up to $180,000. This year, nearly 26 percent of U-M’s in-state undergraduates pay no tuition due to university financial aid.
“We are sending a message to the people of our state and beyond that we seek to welcome students from communities you represent and throughout our state who have the talent and desire to earn a University of Michigan degree,” Schlissel said. “All of these efforts underscore a fundamental goal — the development of talent to support our state and nation’s economic prosperity and propel innovation in all forms.”
An example of that innovation is occurring at Marygrove College, where the university is working in partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Kresge Foundation and others on a one-of-a-kind campus serving students from preschool through college, Schlissel said.
Another example is the university’s Mcity test facility for connected and automated vehicles, which Schlissel said was thriving and has helped solidify Michigan as a leading voice in the burgeoning industry.
“Because of our strengths in research and education and our exceptional breadth, U-M is well-positioned to solve major societal problems, thanks to our strong faculty, talented students and amazing supporters,” Schlissel said. “Generations of elected leaders in our state have helped to make this excellence possible over the centuries through their investments in our success.
“In return, U-M’s breadth pays dividends for our state.”