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Higher ed in Michigan: tuition rises as state support falls

Morgue File

In-state tuition and fees at Michigan's four-year public colleges and universities rank sixth highest nationally, with a Michigan average of $11,600 per year.

But state support for higher education per full-time student in Michigan ranks fifth from the bottom. State support per student is $3,962 in Michigan compared to the national average of $6,646.

That's according to data recently released by the College Board in a report on"Trends in College Pricing 2013."

Michael Boulus is executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities Michigan. He said cuts in state aid are the driving force behind tuition increases.

"While our universities have raised their prices in recent years, it's not to try to gouge students or to go on a spending spree, but to make up for falling state appropriations. Actually our expenditures over the last decade have been in line with inflation."

According to a recent report by Michigan's Senate Fiscal Agency, the state provided about 22% of Michigan universities' general fund revenue in 2011.  That's about half what it was a decade earlier.  Since fiscal year 2001-02,  the dollar amount of state aid for university operations has decreased by almost 22%.

"Anyway you put it, the state has been off-loading costs onto the universities, its students and families, at a time when the state should be investing in arguably its strongest and most competitive asset," Boulus said.

The non-partisan Senate Fiscal Agency reported that if state aid continues to fall, the state's ability to limit tuition increases will also decrease. It concluded that more schools might follow Wayne State University's decision this fall to increase its tuition above the state limits, even in the face of resulting cuts in state assistance.

Despite declining state support, the College Board data showed that in the last five years, Michigan's in-state tuition and fees at public colleges and universities have increased more slowly than the national average.

For Michigan's four-year public colleges, the five year increase was 20%, compared to the national average increase of 27%.

At two-year colleges, the five-year tuition increase in Michigan was 23%, compared to the national average of 29%.

--Virginia Gordan, Michigan Radio Newsroom