College money revokedPublished 9:50pm Tuesday, December 20, 2011
LANSING — At a time when jobs are hard to come by, education advocates say a college education is more important than ever.
So, they’re confused by a decision by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to revoke Michigan’s College Access Challenge Grant and are calling upon him to reverse it. The grant is awarded based on a formula that includes the state’s higher education spending plan, and federal officials don’t approve of Michigan’s plan.
The budget in question was set in the immediate aftermath of the General Motors and Chrysler bankruptcies, when general fund revenues had plummeted, and Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network, calls it unfair to penalize the state for those circumstances.
“The same federal department that has praised our use of the grant is now prepared to take it away from Michigan, simply because the collapse of the manufacturing economy made cuts inevitable across our budget. If Secretary Duncan puts what’s best for students first, he’ll make sure Michigan’s grant is restored.”
The grant funds the local college access networks, dozens of college advisers in high-need areas and some scholarships. Duncan could grant a waiver in states where economic or fiscal conditions warrant that action, but, so far, Duncan has denied that request for Michigan.
Johnson says revoking the grant is counterproductive to the goal of putting Michigan, and America, back to work.
“For Michigan to help President Obama and Secretary Duncan reach their goal of once again regaining our prominence as the most well-educated country in the world, we need support from our partners in Washington.”
Federal officials say Michigan should have spent at least $34 million from its general fund on financial aid for students at private colleges in 2010.
Instead, the state spent $39 million on such scholarships, but used federal block grant money rather than state funds.