Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How the State Budget Crisis Could Affect MSU: Part Two

Monday we looked at how the state's budget crisis could directly affect MSU athletics. Today we turn our attention to the university as a whole.

The item on the most chopping blocks is also the one that would impact MSU the most - the $4,000 Michigan Promise scholarships that are given to most in-state high school students who attend a state university for at least two years.

Simply put, it would be hard for many people who have been counting on that cash to make their Spring tuition to pull it out of their backsides if it's taken away now. Perhaps student loans, or parent loans are an option for some, but there are many who are maxed out on Stafford loans and can't qualify for private loans. And given the dive home values, forget about getting a home equity loan.

Another sticking point is paying for the new State Police headquarters, currently nearing completion in downtown Lansing. The deal was headed up by MSU Trustee Joel Ferguson, a developer who also headed up construction of the Anderson House Office Building. The State Police are renting their current space off Harrison Road on campus for $1 a year, though that building needs repairs, the projected costs and relative value of which are a source of amazingly heated debate.

Rent on the new building is estimated at about $4 million a year, and neither the House nor Senate are eager to provide that amount of cash. In fact, several legislators have said they flat-out won't provide it.

If the State Police stay, nothing really changes. If they go, MSU gets a massive building located on prime parking space near the Breslin Center. There's no formal plan on what to do with that space, but the best guess is that it will become parking in some form, either as a flat lot or garage.

MSU will likely be spared significant mid-year appropriations cuts because of federal stimulus rules that say if universities are cut too much the state will have to give back some of its stimulus money.

Coming Wednesday: Decisions made to resolve Michigan's budget crisis this year could have far reaching effects that reach far beyond the current fiscal year. And if you think this year is bad, next year promises to be far, far worse. We'll look at what the next year has in store, as well as how the persistent budget deficits will hit the university in the years to come.

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