ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Grand Valley State University President Thomas J. Haas asked members of the House Higher Education appropriations subcommittee where they would be without their college degrees and pointed out that today's students deserve the same level of state support that lawmakers received when they were in college.
Haas' remarks came as part of his testimony before the subcommittee at the State Capitol today. He addressed the erosion in state support by pointing out that 30 years ago, the state provided Grand Valley with 75% of its operating budget; today it provides 20%.
"We are at a tipping point," Haas said. "What we do will matter. We know that states with the most college graduates are the most prosperous. College graduates use fewer social services, have higher paying jobs, and pay more taxes. How do we become a more prosperous state again? The answer is clear: Produce more college graduates and keep them here. Talent, jobs, and prosperity go hand-in-hand."
Haas pointed out that Grand Valley is doing its part to lead in the economic recovery. More than 90% of recent Grand Valley graduates live, work, or attend graduate school in Michigan. The university has cut millions from its budget in the last two years by eliminating programs, prerequisites, and cutting fringe benefit costs and administrative expenses, all the while holding tuition costs down and providing increased financial aid. Grand Valley's tuition rate is in the lower half of Michigan's public universities, and for 14 years in a row Grand Valley has been named one of America's 100 Best College Buys.
He stressed the importance of trust, collaboration, and innovation. He urged House members to use their position as informed leaders to become partners with colleges and universities in spreading the word that higher education is essential to the state's future.
"When you hear someone tell you that the universities aren't cutting costs, tell them you know we are," Haas urged. "When you hear someone say that universities are a drain on the state, tell them just the opposite is true -- that we are essential engines of economic recovery and vitality. When someone says that we are part of the problem, tell them that we are your partners in finding solutions."
Hass' full testimony is available for download here [DOC]. His answers to questions by the committee chair are available here [DOC].