Students around Michigan took action this week to make their voices heard in the Michigan Legislature.
The Student Association of Michigan (SAM) as well as Associated Students of Northern Michigan (ASNMU) and other member universities of SAM across the state, protested the possible elimination of the Promise Scholarship this week.
“Students seriously need to start paying attention,” said SAM President Jordan Twardy. “It’s hard to juggle everything, but we need to do something.”
The Promise Scholarship Program is a grant students test for in their senior year of high school. The program allows for up to $4,000 for a student who successfully completes at least two years in secondary education.
The scholarship was eliminated from the state budget in bills passed by the state House of Representatives and state Senate, in order to help decrease the state’s $2.8 billion deficit.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm has threatened to use her line item veto power on those proposed budget changes in order to help protect the Promise Scholarship and other programs. However, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has withheld six of the 15 bills for the proposed budget, wanting to protect them from Granholm’s veto.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen, to be perfectly blunt,” said Rep. Steven Lindberg. “All I know is that the clock is ticking, we are way past deadline and students who are depending on that money don’t know if they’re going to get it, and I think it’s criminal.”
If the Promise Scholarship Program is eliminated, students who were expecting that money for this semester will have to pay the money they thought they had themselves. At Northern, the elimination would affect over 1,200 students and $1.5 million would be lost.
A revenue bill that includes financial allocation for the Promise Scholarship, as well as other programs, is making its way through the legislature right now. It was sent to the Committee on Appropriations on Oct. 13.
The bill has already passed in the House and will be sent to the Senate after the committee has reviewed it.
Lindberg said that in order to keep the Promise Scholarship, the government will have to raise revenues from somewhere.
“We will raise these revenues, but I’m not sure where they would go in the Senate,” said Rep. Steven Lindberg. “Majority Leader Bishop has said that we need to do the budget without a tax increase, and if it means getting rid of the Promise Scholarship, so be it.”
Lindberg mentioned efforts such as taxing some types of tobacco products in order to help pay for the Promise Scholarship Program.
“The bottom line is, if we don’t address the revenue side of the issue, we just don’t have the money to keep that promise. I fully believe that we should keep that promise,” said Lindberg. “But what it really boils down to is that someone is going to pay more in a tax.”
ASNMU has been rallying this week, trying to raise awareness about the Promise Scholarship Program’s possible elimination. They had tables in Jamrich on Monday and in the LRC on Tuesday, encouraging students to call their senators and ask them to vote in favor of the revenue bill.
“We’re getting students to bombard these offices with phone calls to get our point across and let them know they need to vote to save it,” said ASNMU President Jason Morgan. “This really was a promise to us from the state, so we’ve been primarily explaining to students that one, they’re going to lose money and two, how outrageous it is that the state is trying to do this to us as students.”
Twardy said that when the bill was still going through the house, the five representatives they had targeted received five hundred calls by 9 a.m. Also, over a hundred Northern students called their senators Monday in support of the revenue bill.
Morgan said that student protests are one of the major reasons why the Promise Scholarship Program is still trying to be saved in Congress.
“What I’ve heard is that the scholarship wouldn’t even be a question if it wasn’t for students standing up and saying how outrageous it is,” Morgan said. “Our efforts are really making a big impact in Lansing.”