Study: Mich. tuition hikes, aid cuts boost student debt

The Detroit News

Skyrocketing college costs coupled with reductions in state funding and financial aid will saddle Michigan students with debt for decades, according to a study released Tuesday.

Students at MSU's East Lansing campus. The average tuition for an in-state student at a state university, $11,991, is the sixth-highest in the country.

The Michigan League for Public Policy said tuition has more than doubled at most of the state’s 15 public universities since 2003. Increases in the cost of a four-year degree range from 91 percent at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to 158 percent at Michigan Technological University.

The average tuition for an in-state student at a state university, $11,991, is the sixth-highest in the country, the group said.

Study: Mich. tuition hikes, aid cuts boost student debt

“Once again, Michigan is a national leader in a negative category, and one that runs counter to the political rhetoric of attracting and keeping talent,” said Gilda Jacobs, the league’s president and chief executive officer.

A spokesman for Gov. Rick Snyder said he hopes, by the end of his administration, to return state funding to the level it was in 2010.

The fiscal year 2017 budget includes an additional 2.9 percent, or $39.8 million, for the state’s universities and an additional 1.4 percent, or $4.4 million, for community colleges, said spokesman Ari Adler.

“Spending by universities and colleges should be analyzed as well as their incoming revenue,” he said.

For schools to receive the funding bump, their tuition increases can’t exceed 4.2 percent for the year, he said.

While tuition was going up, state funding for higher education dropped $262 million since 2003, from $1.84 billion to $1.28 billion when adjusted for inflation — a 30 percent decrease, according to the report.

Meanwhile, state financial aid has tumbled 55 percent since 1992, according to the report.

In the early 1990s, Michigan was one of the top 10 states in providing financial assistance to college students, according to the study. It now ranks in the bottom half of the country.

Mich. students face changes as they return to campus

The national average of state spending on need-based grants is $533 per student, said the report. Michigan spends just 42 percent of that — $223.

As a result, Michigan has the ninth highest average student debt in the country, according to the study. The report said 62 percent of Michigan’s Class of 2014 graduated with debt, with the average outstanding loan amount totaling $29,450.

The figures are even worse for African-American students.

Nationally, black students graduate with an average of $43,725 in debt. There was no state-by-state breakdown in debt owed by black students.

“Too many students and families have had to take on a mountain of debt,” Jacobs said.

The group made several recommendations. Among them:

■Michigan should restore state budget funding that has been cut for public universities.

■The state should push schools to reduce or freeze their tuition.

■Michigan should make financial aid grants available to older workers.

■The state should offer financial aid to students who attend school less than half-time or who are in short-term programs.