Colleges wary of looming state aid reductionsardy

December 1, 2008
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Community colleges and universities across Michigan are anxious to see whether an imminent executive order from Gov. Jennifer Granholm means fewer dollars for higher education.

“Absolutely, we’re worried about it,” Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, told Capital News Service correspondents. “Our universities are all on alert.”

The organization represents all 15 public universities. 

Boulus said higher education has already seen extensive reductions in appropriations. In fact, Michigan is the second lowest in the nation, according to the Presidents Council. 

“The state has reduced per-student spending by more than $2,800 since 2001,” he said.

The governor will decide whether to reduce higher education appropriations based on an economic forecast developed at a recent research seminar at the University of Michigan.

According to the forecasts, 108,000 jobs could be lost in 2009 in Michigan. Also, the state’s general tax revenues could fall by 7.8 percent in the next year.

Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, who sits on the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, said he is unsure of whether funding will be cut. 

One approach is to allocate money on a per-student basis, he said.

“If you went on a per-pupil basis, there would be about 11 schools that would get considerably more money,” he said. “Bigger schools would get less. We’d be saving money, yet increasing the quality of education.”

Dunkers plan big return

The Coffee Dunkers of America, Grand Rapids Chapter, is back with its popular annual meeting, hitting the Grand Valley State University L.V. Eberhard stage in downtown Grand Rapids on Dec. 8 at 7:28 or 7:29 a.m. Alaska Daylight Time.

”Bailout 2008, You Betcha,” or “To Hell with Your Pension, Here’s an Application to Become a Greeter at Wal-Mart,” will be among the themes lampooned by an able cast of characters who will break into song and dance saluting State Rep. Kevin Green (“On Saginaw Bay”) and Kent County Sheriff’s candidates Tom Raymond and Gene Debbaudt, who will be featured in a duet of “From the Student Prince,” and many others who notoriously made headlines and deadlines in recent months.

The recipient of the Michael Sak Award for Communications with Area Law Enforcement Officials remained a guarded secret at press time. Other targets will be local personalities, office-holders, political aspirants and institutions.

For the admission price of $4.99 at the door or $12.50 in advance attendees will once again enjoy some not so tasty donuts — this year’s being circa 1946, thus, reeeally stale.

Proceeds once again will go to area charity causes that have in the past included such familiar stalwarts as Home Repair Services, God’s Kitchen, the Salvation Army and Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth.

An educated expansion

Battle Creek’s high-profile economic development splash last week (see page 1) follows on the heels of Western Michigan University launching a new master’s in business administration program at its downtown B.C. location.

The program was established in response to interest from Kellogg Co. and other local firms, said Sharon Seabrook Russell, director for WMU’s campuses in Lansing and Battle Creek.

“We received many inquiries here at the Battle Creek campus for courses in business, and some were very much interested in getting an MBA and were going to have to go to the main campus,” Russell told Business Journal reporter Elizabeth Slowik. “We were able to come up with a way to offer a program here. It gives the individuals in this area convenience.”

WMU Professor Jack Ruhl, MBA director, said the program is a “cohort program,” so that students who start classes in the fall continue to study together throughout the 32 months it takes to complete the program. Classes are conducted evenings and weekends.

“They develop a cohesiveness among these students,” Ruhl said. Because the students hold jobs, they can help each other catch up when work duties prevent class attendance, he said. The relationships they form as students provide a basis for networking in the future, he added.

The program can accommodate up to 30 students, Ruhl said. The MBA program at the main campus in Kalamazoo has 300 students, while the program in Grand Rapids has 120.

In Battle Creek, WMU also provides an undergraduate program in manufacturing engineering, graduate degrees in education, counseling and public administration, and also introduced this fall a doctorate program in public administration.

Russell said the center’s graduate programs, including the MBA, cost $420.50 per credit hour, plus a $20-per-class technology fee. The charge does not vary by residency status, which allows personnel from the military base, who may be from anywhere in the country, to attend for the same price as Michigan residents, she added.

Ruhl said he has already received inquiries about the 2009 cohort program, the application deadline is Aug. 1.

Laying a new foundation

Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently celebrated a move into a home of its own for the first time in the organization’s 86 years of existence. With a special fundraising campaign that included a $1 million donation from the Tom and Mickie Fox Family Foundation, the foundation has raised all but $200,000 of the $5.8 million cost of renovating the circa 1905 building at 185 Oakes St. SW. The project received funding from a Downtown Development Authority grant, tax credits, other donations and the foundation’s own investment.

GRCF President Diana Sieger said the foundation expects to save $600,000 over 10 years by owning instead of leasing in the Waters Building. The 19,000-square-foot building once served as an icehouse for beer maker Anheuser-Busch.

Hazy clouds clearing

County commissioners are all but certain to accept monetary gifts next week from Alticor Inc. and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan to help offset the county’s cost to buy 96 acres of new land for Chief Hazy Cloud Park on Pettis Avenue in Ada.

Business Journal reporter David Czurak reports the additional land enlarges the park from its current 24 acres to 120 acres and extends frontage along the Grand River from 2,800 feet to 4,700 feet.

The county’s Parks Department agreed to buy the land in January for $1.02 million, a figure that includes the closing cost. A Michigan Department of Natural Resources grant paid for 74 percent of the total purchase price, or roughly $755,000.

Alticor Inc. has offered to give the county $150,000 over three years to help with the park’s expansion, while the Land Conservancy has pledged $25,000 to the effort.

The Parks Department spent the better part of a decade trying to acquire the land before it reached a deal late last year.

Commissioners also will likely accept a second donation from the Kent County Parks Foundation for the expansion of Fallasburg Park in Lowell. The county bought 5.9 acres for the park last August for $99,000. The parks foundation gave the county $1,285 toward the purchase last summer and is giving another $500 now.

The Lowell Area Community Foundation donated $16,500 to the purchase price. The foundation said much of that money came from 30 Lowell-area residents.

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