Last Monday, Governor Jennifer Granholm addressed the packed Student Center Ballroom regarding the loss of the Michigan Promise Scholarship.
She began by discussing the economic crisis that Michigan is currently in. Granholm said, “In the middle of this crisis is opportunity and you all have this amazing opportunity to help build the next Michigan.”
Granholm told the audience that Michigan’s economy needs to transition away from its automotive industry roots, toward a new means of revenue generation.
“This is a structural change in the state of Michigan. The old ways of Michigan are gone. This [automotive industry] has been our proud way for the past 100 years,” Granholm said.
The governor believes the transition is dependent upon the number of college graduates working in the state.
“States that have the lowest unemployment rate are the states with the highest skilled workers. Our strategy in Michigan is to double the number of college grads in Michigan. If we double the number, then we will be the most educated state,” Granholm said.
The governor discussed the importance of creating new types of jobs and how it involves education. “While we want to hang on to the jobs we’ve got, we’ve got to introduce a new sector. When we went to Hyundai and Toyota, they wanted to know what our education sector looked like,” Granholm said.
The governor plans to focus on six sectors. These sectors are: advanced manufacturing, life sciences and medical devices, homeland security and defense, tourism, and film. The governor believes alternative energy technology will be especially beneficial for Michigan.
“Alternative energy will be a sweet spot for Michigan”, she said.
Gov. Granholm stressed the significance of education and how it will be useful during the transition to new markets, declaring, “21st century jobs require 21st century minds.”
The governor wanted students and parents to know she believes the scholarship can be reinstated if people are willing to fight for it. “I want to fight and I want to fight alongside you. Let’s build together the next Michigan,” Granholm said.
Student Body President, Regina Royan, hopes that progress can be made with events such as this.
“I think this past week with the governor going to a lot of the different public universities has caused quite a stir,” Royan said.
State Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem) believes the State Senate should not have cut the scholarship. “Their priorities are askewed,” Smith said.
Smith disagrees with Granholm’s plan to use the Earned Income Tax Credit to cover the costs of the scholarship.
“Why would I balance this on the backs of the very families who need this money. I don’t agree with this approach, it’s an easy fix. We need something permanent. We would be robbing poor Peter to pay poor Paul,” Smith said.
Smith believes raising taxes could improve the situation. Smith said, “We need more revenue, without those additional dollars, it won’t happen. You can only trim so much before you’re cutting vital things. There is a time for an expense on the citizens and this is it.”
Several students who were affected by the loss of the scholarship let the governor hear their stories.
Nate Root, a junior at the University of Michigan, was affected by the loss of the Promise Scholarship. “I’m having to work almost 20 hours a week now as a full-time student. This has led me to drop a class which has left me academically behind,” Root said.
Emily Gillingham, a freshman at EMU, had to take a loan out to cover the cost. “The loss of the Michigan Promise is just going to mean more loans for me over the course of my time at Eastern,” Gillingham said.
Gillingham is disappointed in the Michigan Legislature and said, “The Michigan Legislature’s betrayal of our trust and apparent unwillingness to support our future is akin to approval of the degeneration and decay of Michigan.”