Michigan College Students Fight to Keep State Financial Aid

University of Michigan and Michigan State University college students joined forces in the state capital this week to fight steep cuts to state financial aid. In its continued struggle to recover from the devastating impact of the recession, the Michigan legislature decided it would have to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship and additional need-based financial aid from the state budget.

Michigan Daily News: ‘U’ and MSU students protest cuts to Promise Scholarship and financial aid

Cutting these programs would deprive about 96,000 college students of nearly $200 million in state financial aid.

This is a real Catch-22 for Michigan. You can appreciate how impossible it must seem to state legislators, trying to figure out what the heck Michigan can live without in order to make up for a nearly $2 billion budget shortfall. And the Michigan Promise Scholarship is technically a merit scholarship, not based on financial need. But who in Michigan doesn’t have financial need at this point?

Whole industries have disappeared from the manufacturing states and the thousands of jobs they took with them are gone forever. The only way back to prosperity is through education and training, to prepare workers and researchers for the new industries evolving in energy, technology, communications, and medical science.

But like losing a job and and losing a home, the loss of a state grant or scholarship for college is just another falling domino for those who are trying to make ends meet and educate themselves back to employment again. If you have no money to pay for school, how do you get the training you need to qualify for new work?

With the backing of university and state officials, Michigan students have launched a time-honored grassroots fight to hang on to their state financial aid. Fortunately, “grassroots” is a lot more than handing out flyers at the mall these days: you can sign the petition on MSU’s Facebook page: “Keep Our Promises: Preserve the Michigan Promise Scholarship!” and circulate the word via Twitter.

One thing I’d ask the state legislature: Michigan got more than $1 billion in education funding from the U.S. Department of Education in early June, and is eligible to apply for another $525 million in the fall. True, the funding wasn’t originally intended for state financial aid, but brother, can you spare $196 million?

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