GVSU tentatively approved for bump in state funding

Devin Dely

Grand Valley State University may be a little closer to reaching its goal for state funding. 

In March, GVSU President Thomas Haas and members of student senate took the fight to Lansing, where they spoke in front of Michigan State Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker’s Appropriations Subcommittee for Higher Education. The funding on the table for higher education in Michigan as a whole was $17 million more than what Gov. Rick Snyder had originally proposed, increasing from $28.6 million to $45.6 million. GVSU will receive 3.7 percent of the $45.6 million. Last week, student senators learned that the committee had approved this request.

“We’re super excited,” said Cameron Jones, student senate vice president-elect for external relations. “This is what we’ve been working towards all year. It’s progress. I was told when I started this project to expect no progress, but the fact that we did get a budget increase this year is huge. It means that we could hit that target a lot sooner to get that drop in tuition.”

The drop in tuition Jones mentioned is in reference to a promise by Haas to lower tuition by $2,000 if GVSU is able to obtain a state average in university funding, which amounts to about $5,000 per student. According to Julian VanDaele, a student senator on the external relations committee who worked on the state funding project, the 3.7-percent of increase “will not take us there, but it’ll get us closer (to our goal).” 

Money from this proposal will be divided up for different uses, including campus security and sexual assault prevention, mental health initiatives, and university operations. Western Michigan University will get the smallest share of the $45.6 million at 2.6 percent. 

However, the decision is not final yet; Michigan’s Senate and House must vote on the proposed increase separately before it can be finalized. VanDaele thinks it will pass, though, citing Schuitmaker’s advocacy for the funding as well as GVSU and Oakland University’s joint letter-drive efforts as reasons for his confidence. 

“We gathered about 400 letters, and we’re going to send them out to state reps within the next week,” VanDaele said. “So, they’re going to get an influx of letters to put more money in the higher education budget, specifically for Grand Valley, so that gives this even more of a chance to be put on.”

According to VanDaele, this project has opened the door for a lot more university collaboration on various issues. 

“Because of this initiative, now we (all the universities) are having ideas on how to partner on a whole bunch of issues,” he said. “This year, with the state funding project, it really was about laying the groundwork. Now that we have the partnership with a lot of other universities that we didn’t have beforehand, we can have a lot more minds on this project. I’m excited to see what happens in these next few years.” 

Haas and student senate will continue to fight for performance-based funding and partner with other schools in the coming years to continue the fight for higher-education funding in the state of Michigan.

“Hopefully, we’re no longer going to be the second-lowest funded,” Jones said. “But it’s going to be an issue until the state begins to fund us the way that we deserve. All the numbers are there to say that Grand Valley is one of the top schools in the state, and we’re still being funded like we’re a small little college from the 1980s. We’ve doubled our size in the last 20 years; that’s something that no other school in the state has done, and it deserves to be rewarded.”