More State Scholarships Disappearing

By Staff

June 26, 2009

In the latest round of state budget cuts, Rhode Island and Michigan have both announced plans to trim or eliminate both merit- and need-based scholarships.

The Detroit News reports that in an effort to address a $1.7 billion budget deficit, the state Senate passed a bill this week to eliminate the Michigan Promise Scholarship and cut funding to various college financial aid programs. The Promise Scholarship is a merit-based award of up to $4,000 per student which is supposed to be offered to 96,000 undergraduates this fall.

"It's getting harder and harder to go to school," said Josh Chapin, 21, a student at Michigan State University and a Promise recipient. "We need as much help as we can get."

When the House higher education appropriations subcommittee convened a hearing to listen to concerns of the community, Edward O. Blews Jr., president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Michigan, pleaded with House lawmakers to preserve the scholarships. He argued that thousands of students made their college decisions based on financial aid and are now depending on the money.

The proposed cuts also include a 44 percent reduction to the Tuition Grant Program, which provides up to $2,100 to needy students attending private colleges in Michigan. Blews pointed out that cutting back on the program would be "devastating for students; it's a critical difference for families struggling to make it through our colleges."

Rhode Island is also making cuts to state scholarships. The Providence Journal reports that students attending private or public colleges next year will receive about $900 annually--a drop from the typical $1,200 per year that students received a few years ago. Officials were forced to cut back on the amount of the scholarship after a higher number of students applied for funds.

Higher Education Commissioner Jack R. Warner acknowledged that students and their families will have to do more to cover the cost of higher education. "It does compromise affordability for the students who need it the most," he said.

The scholarship reductions come at the same time that tuitions are rising about 10 percent in state's three public colleges as a result of state cuts. University of Rhode Island in-state students will pay $850 more, for a total of $9,528 a year in tuition and fees. In-state students will pay an additional $637 at Rhode Island College, for a total of $6,408 in tuition and fees. And at the Community College of Rhode Island, in-state students will pay $286 more, for a total of $3,376 in tuition and fees.

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