Earning your keep

Jess Hodge

Grand Valley State University’s student senate is fed up with the way state appropriation funds have been allocated to public universities in Michigan. They have decided to form a state-funding advocacy group to talk about strategies to fix this ongoing problem.

Maddie Cleghorn, student senate president, led this specialized group. The group of 13 included Cleghorn, Vice President for Finance Jeremy Turnbull, Vice President for Public Relations Ella Fritzemeier, Vice President for External Relations Andy Oeffner and nine other senators from a variety of committees who all are interested in the issue of state funding appropriation.

The senate has previously spoken with Matthew McLogan, the vice president for GVSU university relations, about how to approach the subject.

“Basically the goal of this is wanting to get more funding for Grand Valley and raising our appropriation,” Cleghorn said. “(McLogan) advocated that it is a great goal, but in order to be part of the bigger conversation, we almost need to align ourselves with talking about funding for higher education in itself and not just specifically for Grand Valley.”

The meeting, which took place on Dec. 8, is only the first, and all the senators hope this will at least be brought to the state’s attention that the allocation of funds is skewed. Gov. Rick Snyder will propose the budget for 2017 in February 2016. Student senate wants to rally together collectively and bring awareness to students about the problem at GVSU, Cleghorn said.

GVSU is not the only school that has been negatively affected by higher-education funding. However, GVSU has consistently had one of the lowest state appropriation funds per-student in the state of Michigan, even though the school was the second highest when it came to performance funding metrics in 2013. Schools that do not do as well in performance metrics, such as Wayne State University, still receive more money per student than GVSU does.

“The second major goal of this committee is to shed light on and question and advocate for the way that funds are allocated,” Cleghorn said to the committee. “From what we’ve heard and have been told, there really isn’t a good system for how they choose who gets what money.”

There are six performance funding metrics that are used to allocate funding: undergraduate degree completions in critical skills area, research and development expenditures, total degree completions, six-year graduation rate, Pell Grant students and institutional support expenditures as a percentage of total core expenditures. Each category has an assigned percentage weight.

The state of Michigan’s government writes the enacted appropriation detail for university operations. In the 2014-15 report, GVSU is tied for the second-highest rating in performance metrics with a score of 10 out of 12 points. The university is second to Central Michigan University, which has 11 out of 12 points, and equally rated with University of Michigan – Ann Arbor with 10 out of 12 points. Although it is equally ranked with U of M, GVSU only receives $2,835 per student — the lowest in the entire state. In contrast, WSU has the lowest performance-funding score (three out of 12) and will still receive the highest state appropriation funding with $8,176 per student.

Senate has made a plan with a few steps. The first of these is to send in student leaders to have conversations with targeted legislators and then gather a group of students to go to Lansing. The goal is to rally a minimum of 500 students to travel to Lansing, Michigan.

However, Oeffner pointed out that voter registration goes hand-in-hand with the problem of trying to change the allocation of state appropriation funding.

“Whether you bring that many students to Lansing doesn’t matter,” he said. “It’s more that you have them vote for the representatives who are promoting these changes.”

For the three-step process to succeed, this specialized group must figure out a way to grab the interest of students who not only want change, but also are willing to be that change.

The group agreed on one thing: it feels as though GVSU students are being cheated out of money they earn. Even though the changes they create will not be applied to current students, they hope it will help out future Lakers and the future of GVSU.