Story by Elizabeth Walztoni, News Editor
Photo courtesy pexels.com
On September 30, Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the budget approval of the Michigan Tuition Grant and Michigan Competitive Scholarship. These cuts were among $38 million slashed from the budget passed by the Legislature for higher education in a struggle to balance the state’s finances.
Since the establishment of the program in 1966, private college students from lower and middle-class economic backgrounds have been eligible to receive $2,400 in need-based funding from either the grant or the competitive scholarship. Whitmer also reduced the money available from the competitive scholarship to a maximum of $1,000. The amount was not changed for public school students.
Students at private colleges around the state, including Aquinas, were left scrambling to find a way to cover their costs; many still fear that they will be unable to return to school in the spring if the veto holds.
According to a release from Aquinas College, 600 students are affected among 17,000 statewide. At the college alone, then, total funding lost is over $1.4 million. “It is not only harmful to you,” the statement to students read, “but also to the future economy of the state. The best investment the state can make is in your education and your future.”
Until the budget is resolved, students with an outstanding balance of Michigan Tuition Grant or Competitive Scholarship money will not be kept from registering for spring semester classes, and late fees will be waived.
The college has responded by organizing on the student and administrative level. Aquinas junior Josie Gonzalez relied on the grant to cover her tuition and took action when she heard the news. “At first, I was so worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the money to complete the semester, let alone the year,” she said, “but I’ve never been one to sit back and let myself be affected by something. My panic quickly turned into motivation because I knew this wasn’t just going to affect me.”
Along with senior Elizabeth Schoof and sophomore Destiny Pryor-Harper, Gonzalez contacted Fox 17 News to film a segment on the grant veto at Aquinas. They are also collecting testimonies to be shared with lawmakers (which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org). Student Senate, of which Gonzalez is Vice Chair, has agreed to reach out to other private colleges in the state to promote the restoration of the funding.
Students and staff members are also sponsoring a letter-writing campaign to the Capitol to petition for the grant to be renewed. President Quinn will attend the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities (MICU) Student Action Day on in Lansing on December 4, the tentative date for the House Higher Education Committee Hearing that will decide the future of the funding. MICU describes itself as the “voice” of private institutions in Lansing. The event will include testimony before the committee, individual meetings with hometown representatives and senators, and a student rally on the steps of the Capitol.
“Something that seems this small to elected officials is the whole world to students in need,” Gonzalez said, and Aquinas has not forgotten about those students.