Private college students lose aid in Mich. budget battle

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

About 17,000 students attending private, independent colleges and universities in Michigan are affected by the budget battle in Lansing, as they attempt to recover tuition aid after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed funding for a need-based education grant program.

“We’re saddened that vulnerable students are the ones losing after Lansing’s budget battle,” said Mark Martin, financial aid systems director at Northwood University in Midland.

“The Michigan Tuition Grant helps ease the burden for college students in need and we hope this grant can be restored in Lansing so students aren’t held back.” 

At Northwood, 558 students are affected by the elimination of 2019-20 funding, officials said.

At Davenport University, about 2,000 students are affected, according to spokeswoman Amy Miller. 

“That’s a lot, and it’s not just us,” she said. “We’re trying to work through the process and work with legislators and hope that folks come back to the table so that we can reinstitute these funds for students." 

Davenport, which is based in Grand Rapids, is trying to keep the students enrolled and fully participating in their schedules, according to the university president, Richard Pappas.


“I’m really concerned,” Pappas said. “Both sides need to come to a resolution, really for the benefit of students.

“The private independent colleges are 25% of all of the undergraduates in the state of Michigan, and it’s a shame because there’s a goal of having 60% of our residents with degrees or certifications,” he said. “This really hurts that. “And there’s unintended consequences. It’s not good."

“I understand that there’s politics, in terms of getting everyone to the table. Well, I hope everyone goes to the table.”

The Michigan Tuition Grant is a need-based program that awarded eligible full-time students up to $2,400 for 2018-19.

About 30% of all students awarded need-based financial aid from the state receive the grant.

The funding assists more than 6,000 first-generation college students, more than 200 veterans and 5,646 recipients were above the age of 25, according to Michigan Independent Colleges & Universities, which represents the private, nonprofit institutions in government relations, public policy development and advocacy.

“Eliminating this funding will drastically impact need-based students’ abilities to pursue higher education, putting their futures at risk,” said Robert Lefevre, the group's president. “Lansing’s budget mess is hurting Michigan students, and this issue must be fixed before even one student gives up on their future.”

The tuition grant saves an average of $10,400 in loan interest per student, which is spent in the economy instead of going to repay loans, according to the organization, which says eliminating it could reduce the number of bachelor’s degree-holders in the state by up to 12,000 per year.