Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.
Michigan Information & Research Service Inc.

'Huge' New Scholarship Program Added To Senate Budget; They Call It MAGA

04/22/22 04:05 PM By Vicki Miller

(Source: MIRS.news, Published 04/21/2022) University students would see up to $6,000 a year and community college students up to $3,000 a year under a proposed scholarship grant program that moved out of a Senate appropriations subcommittee this afternoon. They're calling it the Michigan Achievement Grant Awards or, yes, "MAGA."


The "last dollar" scholarships would start with 2022 high school graduates and could apply to both public university and independent colleges over four years. For those going to community colleges, the awards would be $3,000 a year for two years.


"This is huge," said Dan Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities. "It's a major play that will make a major statement when it comes to college affordability in this state. It will have a huge impact starting with this year's graduating high school class."


The program comes amid falling university enrollment numbers caused, in part, by COVID-19. It's geared toward benefiting middle-income families in which the parents make too much to qualify for Pell grants, but don't make enough to cover college without loans.


The dollars would follow the students so those wanting to go to private colleges could use the program.


"This might be the most enjoyable higher education conference ever," beamed Robert LeFevre, president of the Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities after the bills moved out of the committee and much of the room had cleared out.


He told MIRS the proposal plugs a hole in the state's financial aid system and "creates an unbelievable opportunity for students going forward."


The Senate is using $361 million from the General Fund to cover the MAGA grants, a program whose biggest problem in getting the Governor's approval could be its name -- MAGA, the initials of which are used by President Donald TRUMP's supporters for his slogan "Make America Great Again."


SB 842 and SB 843, moved 4-0 with Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) passing and two members being absent. Hertel said he didn't want to vote no on the budget because he said it was going in the right direction. However, he wanted to keep negotiations going so didn't want to vote yes, either.


In other news from the budget, Michigan's 15 universities and 28 community colleges are receiving a combined 6% funding increase under the plan.


A couple months after the Governor suggested a 5% bump in state funding going forward and a 5% one-time boost to higher education institutions, the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee moved a 3% increase one-time and a 3% increase ongoing.


"We have something good here," said Chair Kim LaSata (R-St. Joseph). "We're getting toward great. I'm happy with what we have here."


The $2.7 billion Higher Education budget is 50% larger than what the state is spending on universities this year, but much of that is because of the MAGA grants. The other big spend is $581 million to pay off the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System, something the House also included in its budget to benefit seven universities.


To cover the two, the Senate is taking $928 million from the School Aid Fund and freeing up $505.2 million from the General Fund.


The Senate's budget also creates a new funding formula that's based on last year's dollars, head count, degrees and an across-the-board amount. Oakland University and University of Michigan-Dearborn make out the best among the universities by seeing a 7.7% foundation bounce. The lowest percentage increase is 5% from the three U.P. schools.


The Community College budget is nearly identical to the Governor's proposal with the exception of the change in foundation funding from 10% to 6%. Under this plan Kirtland Community College and Washtenaw Community College each receive a 7.1% increase, the largest among the schools. Northwestern receives 3.5%, the lowest percentage increase.