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March 3, 2021
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Business Review Western MI
Business Review Western MI
College Funding
(wgvu) - Community colleges would get a funding boost under a budget proposal in
Lansing, but that's just a down payment, presidents say.

The real challenge is that the state is asking us to play a bigger role
in assisting with the economic recovery of the state and it's
inconsistent with, We want you to do more but we want to give you less
money, said G. Edward Haring.

As with his peers, the president of Kellogg Community College in Battle
Creek has overseen belt-tightening and increasing reliance on tuition.
KCC has privatized services and shifted to health savings accounts for
many employees, while the board has approved a five percent tuition hike
for next year.

A $317.3 million budget for Michigan's 28 community colleges passed out
of the House Appropriations Community Colleges Subcommittee earlier this
month. It's a nearly $31 million boost from the current appropriation.

That's nice, Southwestern Michigan College President David Mathews said,
but they're not talking about restoring our funding even to 2001 levels.

The proposed budget includes a $7 million earmark for nurse's training,
which state officials call a top priority, given the projected 31,300
registered-nurse openings by 2012. Two-thirds of Michigan RNs are
educated in community college associate-degree programs.

Tuition, however, pays only a third of the estimated $10,000 annual
per-student cost, according to a March 1 state nursing-education task
force report.

That's in part because the state mandates low student-instructor ratios
in the clinical settings that characterize the first two years of
training. Instructors must be relatively highly credentialed and,
therefore, compensated, and equipment is costly, the study noted.

The proposed budget earmark was a recommendation of the panel.

Without more funding, the nursing shortage is simply going to get more
acute, SMC's Mathews predicted.

The Michigan Community College Association in the report urged the state
to allow community colleges to award bachelor's degrees in nursing,
which could open the supply at a more affordable cost than at the
state's universities. That idea was not endorsed by the majority of the
work group, however, and faces a cool reception from state universities.

Rep. Michael Sak, Democrat of Grand Rapids and chairman of the community
college subcommittee, backs the proposal. When he entered the
Legislature four years ago, he said, the wait to enter the Grand Rapids
Community College nursing program was three years and has grown to five.

Sak's panel last week debated a proposal to levy one mill statewide on
areas that currently don't pay property taxes to a local community college.

The community colleges are going to play an ever-increasing role in the
education of kids coming out of high school as well as individuals
outsourced or downsized, for training, he predicted.

Enrolling about as many students as Michigan public universities, the
community colleges are getting short shrift both in funding and in
respect, they complain.

The story of community colleges is not being told well. I think there
is still a perception out there that community colleges are for people
who can't make it anywhere else, MCCA President Michael Hansen said.
Even though that's a core part of our mission it really has evolved
into the first choice for many students.

In addition to winning more state support, an MCCA task force in
February also recommended raising the colleges' collective profile. A
marketing panel now will consider ways to do that, starting with
testimonials recorded from students, business people and other community
stakeholders at recent budget hearings held around the state by Sak's

Grand Rapids Community College May 8 will ask voters for increased
support for the first time in 16 years.

The college seeks an increase of 0.56 mills, representing $28 dollars
per year tax on a $100,000 property.

Over the last seven years we have been cut back (by the state) quite a
bit, President Juan Olivarez said. We're at the point where we can't
grow and we calculate we're turning away between 500 and 600 students
every fall.

The university had tried to keep tuition hikes under the Consumer Price
Index, but the last two years had to apply increases beyond that, he said.

The college enrolls about 26,000 students and works with 600 area
companies to train their workers.
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