LANSING – Michigan’s 15 universities would see a 1.9 percent increase under the House version of the higher education budget reported Thursday, $9 million less than Gov. Rick Snyder recommended.

The budget, HB 4229, was reported 5-0 with Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) abstaining. The House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee budget concurred with Mr. Snyder on tuition restraint and the performance formula.

Under the bill, tuition increases would be capped at 3.8 percent or $475, whichever is greater.

Five universities would be below their 2011-12 funding levels under the budget: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University.

Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said the group appreciates the budget recommendation.

“We recognize that it is a little bit below the Senate recommendation and the governor’s, but, given all the dynamics currently in play, we believe the recommended increased is a good place to be at this moment in the budget cycle,” he said.

The House budget also provides half the increase of what Mr. Snyder recommended for the Michigan competitive scholarship and the tuition grant program at $4 million and $1.5 million, respectively. The House also reduces the maximum amount awarded through those scholarships from the governor’s recommendation.

Snyder wanted to increase the competitive scholarship to $1,000 from $575. The original House budget increased it to only $750, but under a Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) amendment, it was increased to $775.

The Tuition Grant scholarship would increase to a maximum $1,750. Mr. Snyder wanted to increase it to $2,000 from $1,512.

Funding Snyder wanted for the Michigan State University animal agriculture initiative ($2.5 million General Fund) and the agriculture workforce initiative ($1.2 million General Fund) is not included in the House budget.

Overall, the House higher education budget is $1.62 billion, less than  Snyder’s $1.64 billion. It is $1.27 billion General Fund, less than Snyder’s $1.29 billion. The budget is a 2.3 percent increase from the current year.

Rep. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township), the subcommittee chair, said she believes in the importance of higher education, but she said not all of her colleagues in the House feel the same.

“I often say I wish all House members could dive in like we have, but the reality is that they can’t,” she said. “So committee members, it is up to us to show them the importance. … I am incredibly proud of the increased investment we have been able to propose.”

Hoadley said the budget is starting in a good place, and the House will be able to work with the Senate to get to a better place.

“I am looking forward to getting this moving today and continuing the conversation,” he said.

Rabhi agreed. “I know … that you are trying to operate within the framework you are given. And I think you provided a budget that is the best possible outcome under that framework,” he said to LaSata.

He said, though, that he could not support he budget because he wants more money to go to higher education.

Rabhi attempted to amend the bill concerning the North American Indian Tuition Waiver program. His first amendment would have fully funded the program at $6 million and his second amendment would have put in a place holder.

“There is an overall feeling that our universities are not being properly funded in order to fund those students,” he said. “And we are expecting out universities to basically take it out of their overall allocations as it’s all been funded together.”

Hurley praised the bipartisan interest in increasing funding for universities. He acknowledged that higher education is often where lawmakers go when they want to spend less, and said university leaders need to continue to present the data that shows the state’s benefit in having highly educated citizens.

He said one of the reasons lawmakers can go to higher education is because, unlike other areas of the budget, universities have an alternative revenue source, which is tuition.

Hoadley offered an amendment to remove boilerplate language restricting conversations around unionization and on university stem cell research. Both amendments failed.

The boilerplate on stem cell research requires universities to report to the Department of Health and Human Services on compliance with federal law and detailing the use.

The House added boilerplate language requiring the universities to send their annual Title IX report on sexual assault, required under federal law, to the House and Senate fiscal agencies and budget director.

Another new boilerplate states intent that the funds appropriated to universities should not be used to purchase or lease vehicles assembled outside of the United States.

Members of the panel also expressed interest in changing the performance formula for universities in the future, something they did not have time to do before this budget. Universities have called for a change.

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