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Area legislators help defeat split funding proposal

Nov. 2, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Kalamazoo-area legislators played a critical role in the passage of a higher education funding bill this week that successfully staved off a two-tier approach to funding Michigan's public universities.

House Bill 4350 keeps funding for all of Michigan's public universities in the same bill, an outcome that leaders of Western Michigan University and other educators around the state have opposed. The bill has successfully passed both houses of the Legislature and is on its way to the governor for her signature, putting an end to another proposal that would have split higher education funding into two appropriations bills, dividing 12 Michigan universities from the largest three--University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University.

"Our local legislators have spent months fighting an attempt to provide separate funding for three Michigan universities, a move that would have been disastrous for our state, our students and our University," says WMU President John M. Dunn. "The unified bill that was passed contains some dated language about research universities, but Sen. Tom George, as a member of the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, was eloquent in demanding that future funding bills correct that language and recognize Western Michigan University for its status as one of Michigan's five research universities."

In addition to praising George's support, Dunn says he was impressed that the Southwest Michigan legislative delegation was united in its support of WMU over the past months of budget negotiations and in helping secure a victory on the split funding issue. Those legislators include Representatives Jack Hoogendyk, Robert Jones, Neal Nitz, Mike Nofs, John Proos, Rick Shaffer, Fulton Sheen, Tonya Shuitmaker and Lorence Wenke, as well as Senators Patty Birkholtz, Cameron Brown, Ron Jelinek and Mark Schauer.

The legislation passed this week calls for WMU to receive a state appropriation of $112.1 million for the 2007-08 fiscal year. The amount is down from last year's appropriation by nearly $800,000, reflecting the fact that a $1.9 million mid-year cut to WMU was partially restored by a 1 percent funding increase in the budget for the new fiscal year.

Earlier this month, WMU received its delayed August payment from the state. That payment amounted to more than $10 million.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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