By Dillon Davis
Lansing Star staff writer
For Gov. Rick Snyder, carving out a new budget for Michigan and reducing the deficit was one of the primary goals when he set foot in office.
Since unveiling the 2011 budget proposal, potential cuts have sparked numerous protests and left many Michigan residents unsure of how the cuts will affect them.
Rick Stilgenbauer, a Lansing resident, said cuts like the ones Snyder are proposing are happening across the U.S., and it’s been taking its toll on people.
Stilgenbauer said the economic concerns in Michigan have altered the way people are living so finding a way to balance the budget could benefit not only people’s wallets, but their sanity as well.
“(The cuts are) all up right where everybody’s sensitive areas are in terms of economy and socioeconomic positions,” Stilgenbauer said. “The people that he’s cutting back are the people who have been putting into the system their entire lives and expect it to come back. … I think it’s reasonable and I think everybody is up in arms for a good reason. “
When Marc Cunanan was making the choice of which high school to attend in the Detroit area, he knew he’d go anywhere except for Detroit Public Schools, or DPS.
Cunanan, a Detroit resident and chemistry sophomore at MSU, said he wanted to choose a school that would best prepare him for college.
Cunanan said DPS has a reputation in the Detroit area of being of lesser quality and can’t provide the same opportunities as other districts because of budget constraints.
After weighing his options, Cunanan settled on Sterling Heights High School because of the resources and opportunities it offered for his education.
“As much as I love Detroit and supporting what’s there, I wanted to come to MSU and knew DPS wasn’t an option for me,” Cunanan said. “How am I expected to study and learn and be successful when a district doesn’t have the resources to allow me to do so? I made the right choice in this situation and am thankful for that.”
In Snyder’s proposed budget, districts like DPS on a statewide level will have trouble improving the quality of education as he’s calling for a per-student reduction of $300. The reduction is an addition to the $170 per-student reduction that was previously instituted under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
The $470-per-student cut shrinks most districts’ budgets by as much as 10 percent.
Steven Ridnour, a Canton, Mich., resident and former high school teacher, said the budget cuts are potentially going to make it difficult to give students all that they need in the classroom.
Ridnour said although he’s opposed to Snyder’s budget plan, he understands the state needs to make cuts to get the economy moving in the right direction.
“It’s hard not to feel bad for the students,” Ridnour said. “They do their best to excel in the classroom and it’s up to Michigan to decide the resources available. There’s an awful lot of red tape and ultimately it’s the students who suffer in the process.”
For Naudia Fisher, coming to college was always a part of her plan.
Fisher, an East Lansing resident and clinical social work junior at MSU, said part of that plan was finding a way to pay for her higher education experience. In three years at MSU, Fisher said she has taken out extensive loans and earned several scholarships to offset the costs of tuition.
Under Snyder’s budget plan, students like Fisher won’t have much of an easier time paying for college as he has proposed to cut state aid to individual universities by at least 15 percent.
Those cuts will inevitably lead to tuition increases at most Michigan universities. If universities are not able to limit tuition increases to roughly seven percent, the cut of individual aid could be as much as 20 percent.
“I’m lucky to be so close to graduation,” Fisher said. “With the loans I have now, there’s no way I could afford to take on too much more. The state needs to shrink its debt, but students certainly don’t need more of it in the process.”
Several other area students share Fisher’s concerns.
Yul Young, a Lansing resident and student at LCC, said Snyder changing the criteria for student assistance has made things more difficult for him.
Young said he is one of more than 18,000 students who received a Bridge Card and food stamps to help pay for food while in school.
Young said the cuts have made it difficult for students like him to weather the storm of the costs of higher education.
“It doesn’t help students at all,” Young said. “With students that are working and paying for rent at the same time, it’s hard – that’s what I do.”
Debating the cuts
Although support for Snyder’s budget cuts have been mixed, some residents have been vocal in their disapproval.
At a protest of the budget cuts in Lansing, David Kenney, an East Lansing resident, said he strongly disagrees with the way Snyder has handled his cutbacks since he’s been in office.
Kenney said the economy of Michigan is a product of the national economy that was created when George W. Bush was president. Kenney said the work of President Barack Obama will ultimately determine how both Michigan and other state economies function in the future.
“(Snyder) can’t help (but) do what he’s doing,” Kenney said. “He’s doing the bidding of the corporate structure. Now, the states are hurting and they have to put the pinch on the people. … The states are getting the flack for (the corporate structure).”
Others have voiced their opinions in support of Snyder and the work he’s done since he was inaugurated in January.
Stilgenbauer said it’s a positive thing for people to get out and protest the cuts if they disagree with what’s taking place.
Stilgenbauer said Michigan’s economy will turn around as soon as the nation’s economy does.
“The position we’re in is sound to decrease the deficit,” Stilgenbauer said. “It’s happening all throughout America, obviously. … (The government) feels justified in turning this country around.”