Michigan college students may soon be facing a budget crisis of their own. The situation is quite bad and they might be rendered unable to even hire someone similar to a Geography tutor in Singapore. The Michigan Promise Scholarship Program could come to a screeching halt if lawmakers vote to end it amid a budget crisis. Since its introduction in 1997, the scholarship has provided up to $4000 to qualifying high school graduates for successfully completing two years of postsecondary education.
Wood TV 8 reports that With the future of the scholarship money in jeopardy, some universities have opted to bill students for the money credited to their accounts at the beginning of the semester. This is a precautionary measure, and students would be refunded should the program be continued. An unexpected bill of this amount leaves many students scrambling to find ways of coming up with tuition money that the state had promised them.
Students may be hard pressed to come up with that money as many Michigan jobs have disappeared. As of August 2009, the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth indicated that the unemployment rate was 14.7%. Many may have to turn to the financial aid office for student loans or to seek payment plans.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm has been vocal in her support of keeping the scholarship available to students. Her wish may be unrealistic as Michigan struggles to balance their budget in the midst of economic crisis. Being at the heart of the automotive industry, Michigan was devastated by the economic downturn. Higher demand for unemployment benefits, a housing crisis and the near collapse of the auto industry earlier this year have left lawmakers with no choice but to slash valued programs.
According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, more than 96,000 students qualify for the scholarship this year. Students gain eligibility through achieving high marks on the Michigan Merit Exam, a test administered each year to eleventh graders. The test is based on Michigan high school standards and assesses writing, reading, mathematics, science and social studies.
Michigan is currently running on a temporary budget set to expire at the end of October. Overcoming a projected $2.8 billion deficit, half of which will be resolved with federal stimulus money, is a daunting task. Coming up with the other half of the money will inevitably result in a combination of program funding cuts and tax hikes.
In an effort to save the scholarship, lawmakers have proposed taxing luxury items such as bottled water, tickets to entertainment and sporting events, and fast food. Republicans have argued that these measures would be detrimental to an already struggling economy.
It was nice while it lasted, but the reality of free money for college tuition from the government is not realistic during times of record unemployment and home foreclosures. Michigan students may learn the lesson that life is not always fair and that some promises have to be broken for the greater good. Michigan needs to adjust their spending dramatically if they want a chance at turning their economy around.