March 30, 2011
David Hecker, AFT Michigan President, 313-204-6115
Charles Parrish, Wayne State AAUP/AFT President, 248-894-4312
Bonnie Halloran, University of Michigan LEO President, 313-282-3414
Steve Cartwright, Western Michigan University PIO President, 269-387-5176
Sam Otten, Michigan State University GEU President, 517-882-0148
AFT MICHIGAN LEADERS: HIGHER ED BUDGET CUTS A TAX INCREASE ON MICHIGAN'S STUDENTS
LANSING - Leaders of unions at four state universities testified today that draconian budget cuts recommended by Gov. Rick Snyder would decrease services for students while raising their tuition, amounting to a de facto tax increase on young people that could impact their desire to stay in Michigan.
"As funding is cut, tuition goes up," said David Hecker, American Federation of Teachers - Michigan president. "For ten years, the state Legislature has slashed funding for higher education. We're here today to remind the legislature that students deserve better."
The presidents of AFT Michigan local unions at Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and the University of Michigan testified before the House and Senate Higher Education Appropriations Committees. Dozens of full and part-time faculty members from universities across the state attended the hearing and met with individual legislators to reinforce the fact that Michigan's universities have been cut to the bone, and that further cuts would increase the cost of education.
"Under the pressure of these continual budget cuts, Michigan universities have been trimming costs for decades, most significantly by replacing full-time faculty with part-time nontenure-track instructors, who now teach a majority of credit hours across the state," said Steve Cartwright, president of the Western Michigan University Professional Instructors Organization. "At WMU, 25 part-time foreign language instructors share a single, tiny office. Meeting with students is nearly impossible when multiple students and instructors are speaking different languages in an office no larger than a McDonald's restroom."
Michigan currently ranks 31st in per capita spending on higher education, at $184/resident. A 15% cut would drop us to 3rd worst in the nation.
"Graduate students come from Japan, Korea, Kenya, Morocco, Chile, and Peru; they have traveled halfway round the world not to share a seminar with a yooper like myself, but to enroll in Michigan's world-class universities," said Samuel Otten, president of the Michigan State University Graduate Employees Union. "Michigan doesn't just export cars... we export higher education. The proposed cuts to higher education represent a blow against this crucial industry right when we need it the most."
University general fund spending, which includes tuition as well as declining state support, has increased by only 3.8% annually this decade, according to the House Fiscal Agency--less than the national higher education inflation index.
"A colleague of mine at Central Michigan University, Patrick McGinnity, teaches English full-time but earns less than $25,000 a year and supports his family of four only by using Bridge Card benefits to feed his children," said Bonnie Halloran, president of the University of Michigan Lecturers Employee Organization. "Is it any wonder that people with advanced degrees migrate to other employment or other states?"
Over the last decade, Michigan higher education funding has been cut by 18%. Today, universities get about $5,600 per student. If lawmakers had merely increased per-student funding by the rate of inflation, it would be closer to $8,250 per student.
"It is time legislators be honest about the proposed 'cut-and-cap' budget and admit that it would entail at least a 7% tax increase on students, one that will make a college degree unaffordable for too many young Michiganians," said Charles Parrish, president of the Wayne State University AAUP/AFT. "It is inconsistent to say we are helping Michigan progress toward a knowledge-based economy while reducing funding for higher education, the very means of moving our state in that direction.
Past generations understood that higher education was the key to Michigan's future, and helped build a system of universities admired around the world. We need to recognize this strength and reinvest in Michigan universities in order to rebuild our state."
AFT Michigan/AFL-CIO is a union of more than 35,000 members in 97 locals, including more than 13,000 faculty and academic staff at universities and community colleges across the state, making it Michigan's largest higher education union.