Senate Panel Approves Plan to Cut Student Aid


A Senate appropriations subcommittee last week passed a 2009-10 budget bill that would eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship and slash need-based financial aid programs. About 80 percent of NMU students rely on some form of aid, much of it need-based.

Arguably the most controversial element of the plan is axing the Michigan Promise for a savings of $80 million statewide. The program awards up to $4,000 to students who score well on the high school Merit Exam and/or complete two years of postsecondary education with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Need-based, state-supported programs such as work study, part-time independent grants and the Michigan Educational Opportunity Grant would suffer significant cuts totaling $60 million.

"Obviously the Michigan Promise is a point of concern and we will continue to monitor this situation as it evolves. Recent reports indicate that the governor is against this proposal," said Mike Rotundo (Financial Aid). "The Michigan work study program represents 15 percent of NMU's total work study allotment. The balance comes through the federal work study program. Any loss of state support for this component would require a review of our awarding practices."

Under the Senate subcommittee’s proposal, universities would see a 0.4 percent across-the-board appropriation decrease for general operations. Factoring in the cuts described above, the total higher education budget would be 8.5 percent less than the current year appropriation. The plan now moves to the full Senate appropriations committee for a vote.

"Maintaining access and affordability has characterized Northern's approach for many years," said NMU President Les Wong. " Sacrificing student aid in this time of economic crisis sends the wrong signal to NMU student and families. We will watch the conference deliberations carefully."

Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed budget, released early this year, reduced each university’s appropriation by 3 percent. The House version restored the 3 percent, but funded it from one-time federal stimulus revenue.


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Updated: June 22, 2009

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