Over 1,000 students at Northern may find themselves missing $500 of their financial aid come October due to the debate over the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
“We made that promise and now we’re reneging
on that promise. These are unusual times,” said Michigan Rep. Steven Lindberg.
The Michigan Promise Scholarship is a $4,000 scholarship that students receive after high school if they successfully take the Michigan Merit Exam. Students receive $500 per the first four semesters, and then if eligible, they can receive $2,000 upon entering their third year. This program began with the high school graduating class of 2007.
The Michigan House has approved funding for the scholarship, but the Michigan Senate has removed it from the budget. The state budget is being debated in committee for final approval, which must be decided by Sept. 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.
“If we continue to drag our feet in Lansing,” Lindberg said, “we hurt students in school right now and students making decisions without . knowing what their budgets are going to look like. I think that we should be held accountable for that.”
Lindberg said that in order for a decision to be made about the state budget, money will inevitably have to be cut somewhere, or revenue options will have to be put into place. Revenue options that Lindberg has seen proposed include taxing services, like movies, or raising the income tax.
“For my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, my preference would be to pay a little more taxes now to prevent burdening them in the future.”
A compromise that Lindberg said students might find with the Michigan Promise Scholarship, is a need-based criteria. Rules would be written into the scholarship that would allow only financially unstable students the scholarship. Lindberg believes that keeping the scholarship is incredibly important to promote education in Michigan and all efforts should be made to continue funding students.
“For our citizens to be able to have a good family sustaining job, we need to make that opportunity available to . everybody
who has the ability and desire to go to school,” Lindberg said. “We don’t want to stop them just because they can’t afford to do it.”
It is unclear, however, what decisions will be made until a final consensus is come to by the Michigan House and the Senate.
On Wednesday, July 29, students from the Associated Students of NMU (ASNMU),
the College Democrats and the College Republicans came together to speak on the debate Michigan legislature is facing
over the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
“This is a student issue, not a partisan issue. I wanted (legislators) to know that we’re all paying attention,” said Jason Morgan, president of ASNMU.
Morgan said it was important to hold the rally in order to make student’s more aware of money they may be losing and to make legislatures aware that students are paying attention.
Morgan said that students are struggling
now because it is uncertain whether the funding will be available come October.
However, the money has already been credited to those students’ accounts, according
to Mike Rotundo, the director of financial aid at Northern.
“I think that it definitely would have an impact on students if it’s not awarded, just like any kind of financial aid. They then have to find another avenue,” Rotundo said.
If the scholarship is removed from the Michigan state budget, however, Rotundo said that administration will assess at that time what to do for students who have already
Amanda Fluegel, a sophomore international
studies and English major, will feel the loss if the scholarship is not included in the state budget. She uses the Michigan Promise Scholarship for a French class that she takes downstate every summer.
“If I don’t have the scholarship, I’m not going to be able to pay for my French class,” Fluegel said. “(Students) have earned that money and (they) should have it. People depend on that money.”