A new federal mandate could make it easier for families to budget for college. Net price calculators will be required by all colleges and universities starting October 29th. At a minimum, net costs are based on a student’s income, how big their family is and their dependency status.

Keith Williams works in the financial aid office at Michigan State University. He says MSU’s net price calculator has been around for several years.

"It just allows a student to make a real, realistic comparison as to what the net price will be at one school versus another school," Williams said.

Margaret Rodriguez works in the financial aid office at the University of Michigan. She says the mandate is a good thing.

"The more information that we can make available to families about the availability of financial aid, the better it is," she said.

Schools can use their own system or the generic calculator provided by the federal government.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

daisybush / Flickr

Since April, about 30,000 college students were dropped from Michigan’s food assistance program. The Department of Human Services’ new eligibility requirements knocked off more than expected.

Brian Rooney is with DHS. He says Michigan’s rules did not align with the rest of the country.

"If you were going to college then we would count that as an employment-in-training program and you didn’t have to be working part-time, you didn’t have to be a single parent, you could be a single, average college-aged student going to school full-time and qualify for food assistance," Rooney said.

Sydney Watts is a full-time student at Central Michigan University. She says she and her roommates are concerned about losing their benefits.

"It’s hard. It’s very, very hard. I will occasionally eat out with friends and stuff, but other than that it’s Ramen noodles or just crap food because we can’t afford anything. So when all my roommates move back and everything, I don’t know what we’ll do," Watts said.

Rooney says one in five Michiganders is receiving food assistance. He says more people will be cut in October when qualifications are asset-based rather than income-based.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

ahans / Flickr

Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

photo by Sarah Alvarez/Michigan Radio

Some college students are protesting the state’s gun laws by carrying empty holsters on campus this week. “Students for Concealed Carry” is a national group behind the annual protest. There are protests this week at Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University and Central Michigan University.

The groups say people with valid concealed weapons permits should be able to carry concealed guns on campuses around the state. Colleges and Universities ** are on the list of nine “pistol free zones”.

Reid Smith is the Michigan State Director of Students for Concealed Carry

"You’re only taking about allowing lawful gun owners to carry their firearms on college campuses and you’re not talking about the criminals. The criminals aren’t going to obey the gun free zone laws anyway."

Michigan’s house and senate are considering bills this year on whether or not to do away with the pistol free zones.

thetoad / flickr

A few hundred college students representing all of Michigan’s public colleges and universities rallied at the state Capitol today. They are protesting Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts for higher education. Many students held signs with angry and sometimes profane messages aimed at Governor Snyder.

Cardi DeMonaco is president of the Student Association of Michigan. He says he hopes lawmakers pay attention to the concerns of students. 

"Yeah, I think they need to have just talk about this, not just cut and cut and cut, and then they’re going to have issues just keeping up the value of their education. He needs to talk to them and do things with the money they got and not cut it, and work together, and make education better, not just cut and expect them to become better by cutting.”

Snyder has proposed a 15% minimum cut for public colleges and universities. University presidents have said cuts that deep would mean tuition hikes. 

DeMonaco thinks the student voices will be heard, and lawmakers will find other areas in the budget to save, rather than through cuts to colleges and universities.

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says NCAA basketball teams that are not on track to graduate at least half of their players should not be allowed to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Duncan used to play basketball himself. He says his personal experience is what is driving his call for the measures.

Duncan wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post:

As a kid on the South Side of Chicago who loved basketball, I got to see the best and the worst of college sports. I spent time on the court with inner-city players who had been used and dumped by their universities. When the ball stopped bouncing, they struggled to find work and had difficult lives. Some died early. The dividing line for success was between those who went to college and got their degrees, and those who did not. If a team fails to graduate even half of its players, how serious are the institution and coach about preparing their student-athletes for life?

Duncan wrote that 10 men's teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are not on track to graduate more than half their players.

Some officials from universities around the state are saying the Governor's proposed cuts are deeper than the 15% they expected.

The Detroit News had a piece on the reaction over the weekend by reporter Karen Bouffard.

Bouffard wrote "university officials said they discovered the cuts after pouring through the details of Snyder's proposed budget."

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said the Governor didn't portray the proposed cuts openly:

"I find it less than honest that you would portray the cut as 15 percent, and call additional money an 'incentive' if you keep tuition less than 7.1 percent. It's clearly less than transparent in the way it's been presented."

Governor Snyder's spokesperson said the proposed cuts were portrayed clearly.

To keep their cuts at 15%, universities have to agree to keep their annual tuition hikes under 7.1%.

If they don't, cuts in state aid could be greater than 15%.

The cuts proposed for the 15 public universities in the state average 21%, according to the article.

Some of the specific proposed cuts mentioned in the piece (cuts if universities don't hold tuition increases under 7.1%):

  • 23.3% for Central Michigan University
  • 19% for Eastern Michigan University
  • 21.9% for Grand Valley State University

Some university officials said "they will try to hold tuition increases under the 7.1 percent cap, although they can't be sure until their boards begin approving next year's budgets in June or July."

According to the article, the largest cut universities have seen in the last 32 years was 8.5%.

Thetoad / Flickr

Several university presidents visited the state Capitol to testify on the higher education budget.

Governor Rick Snyder has called for double-digit cuts to universities, but he says universities can recoup some of that if they find innovative ways to save taxpayers money.

Thomas Haas, president of Grand Valley State University, told lawmakers that universities have limited options when it comes to funding.

He says keeping tuition rates low also helps makes college more accessible to low-income students:

"Please remember there is a direct relationship between state aid and tuition. When there is more of one, we need less of the other," said Haas.

"In the long run, the best way for you to hold down tuition is to put all you can into higher education appropriations, permitting us to find financial aid for our neediest students."

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said higher education institutions understand the budget challenges the state faces, but she also could not promise to keep down tuition increases if there are big cuts in state aid to universities.

user familymwr / Flickr

Eastern Michigan University will offer a program to single parents ages 18-24 to help them earn a college degree.

EMU says the "Keys to Degrees" program is open to low-income men and women each with only one child age 18 months or older when the program begins.  

The program will start with availability for ten students who will live in University apartments on campus. While parents are in classes, children will be cared for on campus at EMU's Children Institute.

Because classes are conducted year-round, students could earn a college degree in three years.

In a press release, EMU's assistant vice president of retention and student success, Lynette Findley, said:

"Single parents have been historically marginalized and shut out of higher education, due, in large measure, to the expense of high quality, licensed childcare. This program is an outstanding opportunity to serve the large number of single parents in the greater metro Detroit area in order to improve quality of life for them and for their children."

There are few programs like it around the country.

The Detroit Free Press writes that EMU's program is one of seven colleges offering such benefits:

The Higher Education Alliance for Residential Single Parent Programs lists just seven colleges nationwide that have programs that house single parents and their children on campus through a targeted program. One of the seven is Endicott College, located in Beverly, a Boston suburb.

Endicott College established its program in 1992 and, with a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, will partner with EMU to recreate the initiative in Michigan.

EMU and Endicott College hope to replicate the program at two more Michigan colleges.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan college students might have a more difficult time affording summer school classes.  There’s a debate in Congress that might put restrictions on one certain type of federal tuition assistance. 

Pell Grants help many financially needy students afford college classes.   For example, 15 hundred Wayne State University students used their Pell grants to pay for classes last summer.  

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A  new Harvard University report say high schools need to do a better job preparing students for whatever career path they choose…whether it’s becoming a doctor or an electrician.

The "Pathways to Prosperity" study finds that America’s education system is focused too much on college prep and not enough on alternatives, like vocational and career and technical education (CTE).

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at the release of the report on Wednesday:

The Pathways to Prosperity study envisions a new system of career and technical education that constitutes a radical departure from the vocational education of the past.

The need for that transformation is pressing.  I applaud your report’s frank discussion of the shortcomings of our current CTE system and its call to strengthen the rigor and relevance of career and technical education.

I am not here today to endorse the specifics of your policy recommendations. I want instead to suggest two takeaway messages from your study and the Department’s reform efforts.

Secretary Duncan's two takeaways?

  1. CTE, the "neglected stepchild of education reform," can no longer be ignored.
  2. CTE needs to be re-imagined for the 21st century.

Patty Cantu is director of the CTE office for Michigan’s Department of Education. She's not surprised by the report:

"The pendulum swings this way in education a lot. We focus on one area, and then we say, oh, that’s right, we have this other important thing and just as valuable thing that we also have to take into consideration."

Cantu says the head of Michigan's Department of Education, Mike Flangan, is very interested in "not only embracing academic rigor, but also the rigor of [the state's] career and technical education program."

The report says students should be able to choose career paths early, like they do in Europe. Secretary Duncan says "we can’t just copy the vocational education systems of other high-performing countries. But we can learn from them about how to build rigorous educational and work-experience programs with strong links to high-wage, high-demand jobs."

Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.:

The press conference has concluded. Brandon entertained a lot of questions about potential replacements for Rich Rodriguez, but said he has yet to talk with potential candidates and plans to do so soon.

It appears Brandon plans to increase the amount of pay the next head football coach at the University of Michigan will receive. Rich Rodriguez had a six-year $15 million contract. Brandon feels Michigan has been in the "middle of the pack" in terms of coaching pay for top tier college football programs.

Kindergarteners on their first day of school.
Woodley Wonderworks / Creative Commons

This spring, parents across the state will enroll their kids in kindergarten. In the Montague Area Public School district, parents will be asked to list 5 colleges they’d like to see their 4-or-5-year-olds eventually attend.

 “Before their children walk through our doors for the first time, we want to plant that seed. We want to create an excitement with parents so that they are considering college from day one.”

Interior of EMU Science Complex

EMU calls it the largest single construction project in the history of the University.

Today the school put the interior of the Science Complex on display. has put together a slide show of the complex.

The AP reports the $90 million Science Complex was paid for through the sale of bonds and through a 4% tuition increase that was approved in 2005.

Ashley Steele and her son Richard Peake
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

By Kate Davidson of Changing Gears

Five years ago this month, a group of anonymous donors made a radical promise to Kalamazoo, Michigan. They would pay for almost every public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Our Changing Gears project has been profiling towns across the region as they try to reinvent themselves for the new economy. Here, they take a closer look at the "Kalamazoo Promise."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We collectively owe around $828 billion in revolving credit debt (that includes credit card debt), according to the latest numbers from the Federal Reserve.

Now, a column in the Detroit Free Press is reporting that for the first time ever, student loan debt has outstripped  revolving credit debt, coming in at $850 billion.

Indiana Michigan football game
Creative Commons larrysphatpage

The Big Ten conference announced its plan to create two separate divisions in football.  The conference started with ten teams, went to eleven with the addition of Penn State in 1990, and will now have twelve teams with the addition of the University of Nebraska.  No name change, just some new matchups. 

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that...

Strike at EMU avoided

Aug 31, 2010

Rina Miller reports that "an agreement has been reached between Eastern Michigan University and its faculty just hours before a strike could have begun." 

In Miller's report, Howard Bunsis, with the EMU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, says:

Eastern Michigan University (EMU) President, Susan Martin
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

(by Rina Miller)

The union representing Eastern Michigan University faculty may ask for a strike authorization if its contract demands are not met by midnight Tuesday.

EMU classes are scheduled to begin September 8, but union representatives say teachers may not be there if no contract agreement is reached.

EMU faculty are no strangers to walkouts: They went on strike in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

Howard Bunsis is with the union.

Bedbug on human skin
Piotr Naskrecki / CDC/Harvard University

(by Steve Carmody)

College students are moving into dorms and off campus apartments this week across Michigan. There is a concern the students may inadvertently add to a spreading bed bug problem. Detroit is among a host of U.S. cities that have seen a spike in bed bug infestations. Many colleges are closely watching incoming students to keep them from bringing in furniture that's infested with bed bugs.