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Two Michigan universities break tuition caps, pass up state incentives

Jul 15, 2015

Eastern Michigan University isn't the only school in Michigan bucking funding incentives
Credit krossbow / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

The battle between Michigan’s public universities and state lawmakers over funding has ramped up in recent weeks.

Both Eastern Michigan University and Oakland University have busted state-imposed tuition caps, deciding that the state’s “reward” for not raising tuition just wasn’t worth it.

The universities raised their tuition for the upcoming school year by 7.8% and 8.48% respectively.

David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press explains that since 2012, the state has placed a cap on how much universities can increase their tuition in a given year. That cap fluctuates year to year, but this year was 3.2%.

Staying under the cap means the schools will receive some extra “performance funding” from the state in addition to the normal base funding.

“You stay under it, you get all your performance funding. You don’t stay under it, wave goodbye,” he says.

The reason Eastern and Oakland decided to turn down that offer this year comes down to basic arithmetic, according to Jesse.

He says by breaking the tuition cap, these universities will see approximately ten times the amount of extra funding than if they had accepted the state’s performance incentive.

This decision has made some politicians unhappy, but Jesse says it’s not one the schools have made lightly. The way they see it, they need more money in order to implement the plans and programs they need to remain competitive. Jesse says the universities are acting perfectly within their rights.

“Our constitution says that the universities are autonomous and they can do what they want,” he says. “The Legislature can’t tell them what to do. But they can tie all sorts of things to finding. They can reward or punish with funding.”

Jesse says although the tuition increase will give universities more flexibility, it also puts more pressure on students and their parents to meet tuition costs.

David Jesse tells us more about the tuition decision and what impact it could have in our conversation above.