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June 29, 2009 - Image 4

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-06-29

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4

Monday, June 29, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

(The ichl-gan~al
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

Jot'
Students can't afford more tuition hikes

JAMIE BLOCK
EDITOR IN CHIEF

ROBERT SOAVE
MANAGING EDITOR

RACHEL VAN GILDER
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles andillustrations represent solely
theviewsoftheir authors.
Low-income letdown
City shouldn't let project for affordable housing stagnate
It's no secret that students pay through the nose to secure housing
near campus. But permanent, low-income city residents face simi-
larly inflated housing prices. Low-income housing has become less
and less available for residents and students alike. A proposal to turn one
of three government-owned properties downtown into cheap and conve-
nient housing was supposed to offer some relief for low-income residents.
But a disturbing lack of attention and support from Washtenaw County
commissioners has brought this plan to a halt, possibly permanently. City
and county officials need to renew their commitment to providing resi-
dents with the affordable, dense housing they require.

Two weeks ago, the Board of
Regents upheld a yearly ritual
and raised the cost of tuition.
But this year's 5.6-percent hike
was accompanied by a surpris-
ing break with tradition - for
the first time in three years, the
vote wasn't unanimous. While it
appears that at least some of the
regents are beginning to under-
stand that escalatingtuition rates
are unacceptable, students will
still have to contend with anoth-
er significant hike. By raising
tuition yet again, the University
is failing to provide accessible
higher education to everyone - a
failure that can only be remedied
by doing whatever it takes to
make the cost of a college educa-
tion affordable again.
At their June 18 meeting, the
Board of Regents voted 6-2 to
approve another 5.6-percent
increase inatuition for most stu-
dents for the 2009-2010 academ-
ic year. This means that in-state
tuition for students in the College
of Literature, Science and the
Arts is now $11,660 a year - 20
percent higher than it was three
years ago. Regents Julia Dar-
low (D-Ann Arbor) and Denise
Ilitch (D-Bingham Farms) voted
against the increase, the first
such votes in three years.
Darlow and Ilitch's votes rep-
resent a positive change, but the
voting procedures of the Board of
Regents are still a problem. The
serious debate over the budget
occurred out of public view, as it
does every year. This is a flawed
way of making University deci-
sions, and it casts the tuition hike
in an even darker light.
But it's still the hike itself that
merits the most criticism. In this
slumping economy, most families
are experiencing increased finan-
cial burdens, which means fewer

dollars to put toward their kids'
college education. Though the
approved budget includes a com-
mendable increase of 11.7 percent
in financial aid funded by private
donors, high tuition costs are
still a problem for middle class
students who don't necessarily
qualify for financial aid.
It's impossible not to balk at
the regents' budget, especially
when it includes expenditures
like the continued hiring of 100
faculty members. Maintaining
an excellent faculty is certainly
important, but the need for such
increases seems doubtful when
the consequence is an unafford-
able situation for students.
The University administration
cites dwindling-financial support
from the state as a reason for the
increase. It's true that the state
government has a responsibility
to fund its institutions of higher
education, and that maintaining
academic excellence is a key to
remedying the state's financial
plight. But the University's pro-
jection of a $10.4 million funding
cut is simply that - a projection.
Two years ago, when the Uni-
versity raised tuition on the pre-
text of a projected funding loss,
the projection turned out to be
lower than the amount that the
state eventually provided. Stu-
dents were never refunded for this
mistake. So while the state should
make an effortto provide adequate
funding for higher education, the
final responsibilityultimatelyrests
with the University.
The University has failed
this responsibility. With every
increase, a college education
becomes a less realistic option
for countless students. While the
country is in financial turmoil,
affordable education is more nec-
essary than ever.

Six months ago, community
development officials proposed
the conversionofone ofthree city-
or county-owned lots into 60 to
100 low-income housing units for
residents displaced by the closing
of a local YMCA. Approximately
80 percent of the proposed con-
versions' cost could be paid for by
federal tax credits, which the city
is eligible for because the large
number of students - many of
whom are still dependent on their
parents or work only part-time -
inflates the area's unemployment
rate. The target occupants for
the housing would be those who
earn about 10 to 15 percent of the
area's median income.
But according to a June 24
article by the Ann Arbor News
titled "Plan to create low-in-
come housing in downtown
Ann Arbor stalled," the project's
progress has stalled indefinitely.
The problem seems to stem from
the inability of county commis-

sioners to agree on which lot to
develop. Controversy over the
location has allowed city and
county officials to display a lack
of interest, which seems to have
derailed the project. And a lack
of public outcry has allowed offi-
cials to easily sidestep the issue.
An apparent lack of communi-
cation among local officials also
seems to be contributing to the
stagnation of the project. The offi-
cials working on the project don't
seem to have reached a consen-
sus about the project's status. But
that doesn't mean this necessary
project should be abandoned, and
the officials in charge need to step
up to make it happen.
Expensive downtown housing
pushes low-income residents and
students outside the city limits.
Not only does this segregate resi-
dents from more modest means,
but it also forces them to deal
with a more expensive commute.
This project has the opportu-
LIKE WHAT YOU SEE HERE?

nity to increase the diversity of
downtown Ann Arbor with stu-
dents and low-income residents
alike. Yet city and county offi-
cials seem reluctant to make any
headway toward this goal.
And since University students
make it easier for the city to get
federal cash, it stands to reason
that the students should be able
to profit from that gain, too. But
the local government hasn't even
been able to provide housing for
its permanent residents. Until it
does, students will be left out in
the cold.
With the closing of the YMCA
and rising housing rates, Ann
Arborresidents arehard-pressed
to find affordable housing. The
city has the power and money
to change this, but instead of
doing so, it has dithered about
location, stalling the project. It's
time for the city to revive this
flat-lining project and provide
for its residents.

JASON MAHAKIAN
E-MAIL JASON AT MAHAKIAJ@UMICH.EDU
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Check out more from Daily columnists and cartoonists online on Wednesday and Friday at michigandaily.com.
Editorial Board Members:
Raghu Kainkaryam, Erika Mayer, Asa Smith, BrittanyfSmith, Vivian Wang, Patrick Zabawa

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