Michigan Lawmakers Work On Free College Tuition Plan

LANSING (WWJ/AP) – How does free college tuition sound? Some Democratic lawmakers are working on a proposal that would do just that – pay for everyone’s college tuition.

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said Senate Democrats hope to raise $1.8 billion so they could pay tuition for either a 2- or 4-year program for every student in Michigan. The proposal would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs at public universities and community colleges in the state.

The plan is to pay for it by taking and saving the closings from tax loopholes, taxing Internet sales, and shaving lucrative state contracts with private vendors by 6 percent.

The Democrats figure this initiative could help the state retain and even bring in more students. State aid for public education has dwindled in recent years, with universities facing a 15 percent reduction in state aid for operations in the current fiscal year. Universities say reduced state aid is a major factor contributing to tuition increases.

Skubick said Lansing Republicans might not go along with the idea, but Democrats could urge Governor Snyder to support it anyway.

The grants would be renewable for up to four years. The size of the grant would be based on how long a particular student spent in Michigan’s K-12 school system, with the maximum annual amount pegged to the median tuition level at Michigan’s 15 public universities.

Democrats say the plan could be accomplished without tax increases for Michigan citizens. But some businesses or others who could lose tax credits or exemptions under the plan would face higher tax bills than before, which would be a concern for Republicans.

“Senate Republicans are open to discussing ideas for how to keep our students in Michigan and to encourage them to attend our state universities, but we also must always be cognizant of the costs associated with any new policies,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Michigan Senate, 26-12.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration would not react directly to the Democratic proposal Wednesday because it hasn’t seen specifics of the plan.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor is committed to helping ensure college affordability and investing in education when possible.

“That said, it’s also simply not just about more money,” Wurfel said in an e-mail. “It’s about achieving the best outcomes and results possible.”

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More from Tim Skubick
  • Flair Detroit

    It will be a waste of money if the recepients are not required to work in the state for a set number of years.

  • ti

    Not all high school graduates are meant to attend college. If everything is given to students, many will not appreciate the value of an education. What happened to working hard to achieve? The rewards are much greater when they’re earned.

  • twarns

    This is a great idea. Tuition at U of M would not be fully covered so some students will still need to pay for their tuition. With room and board and fees, most students will still need to pay something. It is not all free.

    At this rate, a student can afford college with a summer/parttime job with miminal debt.

    I think that the grant should be tied to grades. If you receive less than a C-, then the grant should be repaid. We should not pay for mediocrity.

    I think businesses would be excited about this. They could never afford to provide such a benefit to their workers. I think this wil help new businesses to relocate to Michigan.

  • RickVB

    What an incredibly stupid idea!


    A) TANSTAAFL. For most of us, this doesn’t mean free college for our kids, it means massively higher taxes (closing tax loopholes = increase taxes). And since when is paying someone to pay for something (taxes => government => tuition => colleges) cheaper than pay for it directly?

    B) Whenever a politician, ESPECIALLY a Democrat, quotes a cost for something, quadruple it. This means it would only be 25% funded and would either result in MASSIVE tax increases or total insolvency within a few years.

    C) They are planning to pay for this by making business more difficult and more expensive in Michigan. This is a good idea right now??

    D) When the government pays for something, it controls it. BAD BAD BAD

    E) College is not, SHOULD NOT be for everyone.

  • Kairin

    Typical politics.
    As soon as a Democrat has a child approaching college age, of course, it is time to figure out how to get free tuition.
    Don’t go for it Michigan!
    Remember the Michigan Promise – my child didn’t get his. The state of Michigan took it away. I’ve refinanced my house to help my children. I’ve struggled for years so they could have an education. They worked to help put themselves through school. Now our “representatives” are talking about taking away tax breaks for businesses. Who’s going to hire my college graduates?
    Perhaps, my children should get a refund from the state for all the money we’ve already paid to the universities in Michigan.

  • GSH

    Typical politics…….sounds good on the surface, great for headlines, absolutely ridiculous in the real world.

    First, paid for by tax dollars. We don’t need any tax increases.

    Second, too many “tuition” dollars chasing the same education product. This is a classic definition of how to induce inflation.

    Third, the inflation created will cause tuition rates to skyrocket with no improvement in the product or outcome.

    Fourth, too many people will choose this not because they want or need a college education but merely because it is free. Just because “you” don’t pay for something….anything….doesn’t mean it is free. Everything has a cost, whether that cost is paid directly (by the consumer) or indirectly (by a third party….i.e. the taxpayer)

    One benefit….perhaps more people will study Free Market Economics while at college and realize that proposlals like this are merely a politicians pipe dream!

  • SA

    Kairin, I’m not trying to be difficult, however could you please tell me which democrat is pushing this legislature through because their child is of college age? I would like to email this person(s) to discuss their intent with them directly.

    • RickVB

      SA, it doesn’t really matter whether any of the proposing Democrats actually have a kid they are trying to get through college – the point is that they are trying to convince people that they can get something for free, for their own personal gain. (By the way, shame on you Tim Skubick for using that terminology.) Any reasonable person will understand that no one works for free, everything costs money, every dollar spent by the government has to come from some non-government person’s sweat. And only the very cynical will say “here’s something good for everyone, it’s free!”. This entire proposal isn’t about anything more than wealth redistribution, which is the tool being used to dismantle our entire way of living.

  • Denny Gill

    Tax internet sales, eh? Yeah, good luck with that.

    (Have Democrats *ever* met a tax they don’t like?

    • twarns

      Both individuals and businesses are supposed to pay sales tax on their internet sales today. As an individual you can include unpaid internet sales tax on your tax return. Businesses are can also pay their unpaid internet sales tax on their tax remittances.

      This is not a NEW tax, but a collection of a tax that is being avoided.

  • chumly

    as we know businesses don’t pay taxes…more inane logic and blatant corruption from the left…once again…

  • Kim Baliey

    Liberals giving this to help their beloved blacks
    Elect a liberal and you end up with zero and blacks with 100% of your cash.

  • John Frost

    Ron Paul for Jobs, Money perks for all Americans
    Join The RP Revolution!!!

  • John G

    I believe this would be a great opportunity for our students! However, I don’t believe this to ever be a feasible plan. My main concern is that the median tuition rate may be around $9,000 now but with large numbers of individuals participating in this program then student enrollment will increase in large percentages. This will force colleges and universities to hire more faculty and staff to support the increasing student body, increasing tuition. Also, additional facilities will need to be constructed in order to facilitate for an increasing student body, increasing tuition. Finally, additional residence halls and dining facilities will need to be constructed to compensate for the increasing student body, increasing fees and out of pocket costs. All of the increases in tuition would cause the state average tuition to increase and require an increase in taxes/funding to support the initiative. Look at the current rates of pay for professors at Grand Valley. A tenured full-time faculty member in the College of Education earns around $65,000 a year, extremely low in my mind for a college professor, and has seen insurance and retirement benefits slashed. There is not much that could be cut at the university level to decrease tuition and come even close to fairly compensate someone for earning a Ph. D. If no one is earning a Ph. D. because they can earn more teaching, how do we keep higher education in existence?

    Again, I believe this would provide a great opportunity but will never be feasible.

  • Ally

    Please tell me why my tax dollars should go to pay college tuition for someone else. I do not believe there should be goverment grants or free tuition. Everyone should have to take out student and/or parent plus loans like most middle income, 2 parent families. My husband and I are paying parent plus loans for 2 of our kids and have a 3rd entering college. And yes, my kids have their own loans to help cover the cost. Maybe if my tax dollars weren’t spent on grants for other students, I would have more money to pay for my own kid’s education.

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