Free Tuition for Michigan Teens? Higher Education Experts Say $1.8B Program Unlikely to Gain Support

Judy Hartnett's picture
Thursday, March 8, 2012

In January Michigan senate Democrats unveiled a proposal that would send all Michigan-educated high schoolers to a state university for free.

Have you heard of it? Probably not. The proposal —dubbed Michigan 2020— has had a rather limp reception. Why?

Because with a difficult economic climate and Republican-controlled Legislature, the likelihood of such a measure passing is slim, experts say. Even House Democrats, normally allied with their counterparts in the Senate, have shied away from the proposal, saying the $1.8 billion price tag is too steep in the current economic environment.

"It's a political, partisan thing. It's simply a tactic to say 'Look, Republicans didn’t want to fund public education," said House Republican Rick Olson, R-York Township. Olson said most Republicans in Lansing weren't taking the proposal seriously.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, left, responds to the State of the State address while House of Representatives Minority Leader Richard Hammel, right, looks on.

Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview the proposal "isn't a Democratic plan or Republican plan. It's a genuine plan for trying to move the state forward."

Senate Democrats are proposing closing numerous tax loopholes and ending certain tax credits to pay for the program. The Michigan 2020 proposal claims that loopholes credits cost the state an annual $35 billion and that eliminating 10 percent of the exemptions would free up enough money to fund a statewide tuition allowance.

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