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About half of those are leaving and over 60 percent of graduates who have left have indicated they have no intention of returning to the state.
“I earned the $4,000 that the Michigan Promise offers. But because of budget cuts, I and many of my classmates will not be receiving any of the scholarship money that we have earned. Where are we going to find the money at this late date to pay our tuition bills?” Wayne freshman Dana Paglia asked at the Monday rally held in front of the WSU Welcome Center. “I find it absolutely ridiculous that out of all the budget cuts our state could be making, it is always the schools that get money taken away from them. They are taking away scholarship money to students who have worked hard through their high school years and would like to continue working hard for their college education.”
If undercutting efforts to prevent the mass exodus of graduates leaving the Wolverine state is the new norm in Lansing, then we should forget about the future of Michigan.
In fact, the idea that lawmakers would have the temerity to underfund the Michigan Promise, like George Bush underfunded No-Child-Left-Behind that eventually left every child behind, is bad public relations for the state. It does not augur well for anyone looking to come to Michigan.
If Michigan’s leaders cannot take care of their own, how do they intend to sell the state as a beacon of hope despite its current economic woes?
“I find it hard to believe that those who have committed crimes and are in jail have state-of-the-art facilities and cable television, while college students who have worked hard their whole lives are getting their hard earned scholarship funds taken away,” Paglia lamented. “Someone has to fight for us and stand up for us. No one in Lansing is listening. They are ruining our future and the future of this state. The Michigan Promise Scholarship was just about the only good thing our state had going for us.”
Aaron Petcoff, another WSU student who heads the group As Soon As Possible, said it is outrageous that “decision makers think it’s more important to fight meaningless wars, put people in prison and give bonuses to corporate executives than to make sure that people have access to education.
“In 2001, tuition at Wayne State cost under $4,000. Today it costs around $9,000. Administrators at Wayne estimate that in five years they’ll raise tuition. Every chance they get the decision makers in Lansing have been cutting back funding for education and raising funding for prisons. That tells me that they would rather us be locked up in a cell than get an education.”
Petcoff reminded his colleagues at the rally that the stakes are high and the choices are clear.
“It’s education versus incarceration. Education versus unemployment, and the politicians in Lansing keep making the wrong choice,” he said. “Is this our vision for a better world? Where we are in debt for 30 years paying off our loans?
Where we stress out every time we sign up for classes and wonder how we are going to pay for them?”
And like the history of any popular struggle begun with mass mobilization with students at the center, Petcoff urged his fellow students to make an outcry against educational cuts a movement for real change.
And if Lansing lawmakers are buying time to enjoy their Thanksgiving dinners while students of the Michigan Promise are made to wait in vain, I urge these so-called leaders to read what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about time in the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”:
“Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
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