Spectrums unite to back program

October 4, 2009
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LANSING — They may disagree on health care, U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, abortion and taxes, but something is bringing rivals together on campus.

College Republicans and College Democrats at Northern Michigan University are coming together over the elimination of the Michigan Promise Scholarship program.

For many of the 7,500 NMU students from Michigan, more than a semester’s worth of tuition is on the line as state lawmakers battle the Oct. 1 budget deadline.

In-state students at NMU pay $7,455 per year in tuition, according to communications director Cindy Paavola. That means a full scholarship pays for more than a semester of school.

And that’s something students were counting on. “Obviously in these economic times, anything that impacts the bottom line for students is a big deal,” Paavola said.

Legislators and Gov. Jennifer Granholm are wrestling with the future of the $140-million-a-year Promise program.

Matthew Fusilier, president of College Republicans, doesn’t support the cut, despite the stance of most Republican legislators on the issue.

In fact, it’s a bipartisan issue on campus. Earlier this year, the College Republicans, College Democrats and Associated Students of Northern Michigan University came together to talk about ways to keep the scholarship program alive.

“I don’t think it’s right. Most college students don’t think it should be taken away,” said Fusilier.

The proposal to cut the $4,000 scholarship awarded to high school juniors who perform well on the Michigan Merit Exam remains in contention.

The scholarship program was established in 2006. Students must pass the merit exam and maintain a 2.5 grade-point average in college to receive the full amount, which is often paid in installments.

Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, opposes the cut. He says it would have serious consequences, and not just for students.

“I think we’ll see a serious drop-off in trust of government,” Boulus said.

In the Legislature, most Democrats have opposed cutting the scholarship and most Republicans have backed the proposal.

Rep. Steven Lindberg, D-Marquette, says there are better solutions than eliminating the program. One option is to make the scholarship need-based instead of universal, which Lindberg said he’d go along with, reluctantly. He said what he really wants to avoid is the proposal as it stands.

“I think to cut all the Promise grants would be criminal,” said Lindberg.

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