Cut in Funding Rattles Students

There’s more bad news for financially strapped college students.

Already cut nearly in half, the state-funded Tuition Grant and State Competitive Scholarship programs are being stretched thinner than projected. Soon, more than 46,000 students might find that the checks from the state they believed would cover college bills are going to be smaller than expected.

Perhaps the worst hit will be for those who attend Baker College and Davenport University, where a combined $27 million in Michigan Tuition Grants helped cover bills for 19,638 undergraduates in the 2008-09 school year. Payments to those schools have been capped at $3 million each. It will be up to the schools to determine which students get how much.

"Students in the state of Michigan are taking a beating this year," said Ellis Salim, Baker’s vice president for student services. Baker is trying to cover the shortfall in the Tuition Grant for the second semester of the 2009-10 school year, but will be unable to do so again, he said.

Earlier this year, lawmakers eliminated the Promise Grant, which gave Michigan students up to $4,000 for college, and four other smaller scholarships that, altogether last year, gave students about $97 million in aid.

Unlike the Promise Grant, which can pay bills at most Michigan colleges, the Tuition Grant is reserved for needy students at Michigan’s private colleges. The per-student cap has been $2,100 for three years.

Lawmakers slashed the Tuition Grant allocation from $56.7 million to $31.7 million. They made graduate students ineligible so the per-student awards would stay the same for undergraduate students, said Ed Blews, president of Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan.

The Legislature also capped grants at $3 million per school.

But an unprecedented number of Michigan students qualified for need-based financial aid last fall, forcing the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority to cap Tuition Grants at $1,610 and State Competitive grants, which were up to $1,300 each, at $510.

This means some students, like Ryan Cole, a 21-year-old Northwood University senior, will have to make up the difference. The White Lake Township woman said she has used the $700 each term from the Competitive grant to buy books.

"As a college student, I just don’t have another $700 lying around," she said.


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