Nearly 1,000 Hope students impacted by Whitmer budget cuts

Holland Sentinel file photo

HOLLAND — Cuts to the state budget from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could cost Hope College students nearly $2 million. Whitmer used a line-item veto to eliminate the Michigan Tuition Grant and reduced the maximum amount of money available to private college students in the Michigan Competitive Scholarship.

The Michigan Tuition Grant provides funding — up to $2,400 per year — for students to attend one of 30 private colleges and universities in Michigan, which includes Hope, Calvin University and Davenport University, among others.

The amount available to private college students through the Michigan Competitive Scholarship was reduced from $2,400 to $1,000. Students can receive one of the aid options, but not both.

Hope College President Matthew Scogin said the changes will have a big effect on the school.

“We’re watching that very, very closely,” he said. “It impacts about 900 students at Hope College. We’re very focused on it and doing what we can to describe the importance of this to our lawmakers.”

A total of 482 students at Hope were set to receive $1,134,145 through the Michigan Tuition Grant before the veto. The cuts to the Michigan Competitive Scholarship program impact another 487 Hope students in the amount of $650,143.

Scogin added that he feels the situation is the byproduct of a political fight at the state level.

“I feel like the Michigan Tuition Grant has gotten in the middle of a fight that’s bigger than the Michigan Tuition Grant,” he said. “I feel a bit like we’re spectators, although we’re doing what we can to describe the importance of this. We’re kind of just the victim of a larger drama.”

A group of U.S. representatives from Michigan — Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), John Moolenaar (R-Midland), Tim Walberg (R-Jackson) and Paul Mitchell (R-Shelby Twp.) — are calling for Whitmer to reconsider her line-item veto of funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant.

The six representatives wrote a letter to the governor on Tuesday, Oct. 8, in which they pointed out the economic barrier to college for some students and the potential economic impact of the cuts.

“We are disappointed to learn of your decision to veto funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant,” the representatives wrote. “All too frequently we hear from constituents who are concerned about how they will pay for college. The Michigan Tuition Grant program provides students up to $2,400 per year to attend one of Michigan’s independent colleges. While $2,400 may not seem substantial to some people, in the hands of a struggling student and family, this grant can mean the difference between continuing their education, having to withdraw from school, or having to take out additional loans and saddle themselves with deeper debt.

“A college-educated workforce is also essential for our evolving Michigan economy. Evidence shows that for every $1 a state invests in higher education, it receives up to $4.50 in return in higher tax revenue and lowers spending on public assistance. We sincerely hope that for the good of Michigan students, their families, and our economy, you will seriously reconsider your veto, which undid the critical funding for the Michigan Tuition Grant program.”

Whitmer has said that a line-item veto is not a “death knell” for any individual item. She has invited Republican leaders back to the table to resume negotiations — which could restore funding cut in vetoes — but talks have not yet resumed.

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