Veto hits wallets of private college students

Kent County

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Davenport University freshman Kenneth Bennett is realizing a dream: not just for himself, but for his family. He’s a first-generation student at Davenport University near Grand Rapids.

“I want to make sure I get the best education I can get for my future career and I want to make an impact on the world,” said Bennett, who’s studying computer information systems.

It isn’t easy. College is expensive. Bennett has made a go of it through jobs, scholarships, work study and a $2,400 Michigan Tuition Grant.

Now the state money is gone.

“I’m hopeful that it will come back,” Bennett said.

Amid a budget battle with Republicans in the Legislature, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer line-item vetoed the Michigan Tuition Grant Program and reduced the amount of money available for the Michigan Competitive Scholarship. Both programs help low-income students attending private colleges and universities.

Bennett finds himself in the same boat as about 2,000 other Davenport University students at the school’s 14 campuses across Michigan. Statewide, about 17,000 students were supposed to receive the tuition grant.

“These are really gritty students, these are students who succeed and overcome obstacles. so I really am concerned,” Davenport President Richard Pappas said.

Other students at private colleges and universities in West Michigan are being impacted, including 350 at Kalamazoo College, close to 600 at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids and, at a loss of nearly $1.8 million, almost 1,000 students at Hope College in Holland.

Pappas said the funding cut flies in the face of efforts by the state to train more people for careers.

“If these students aren’t allowed to continue, it will definitely hurt that goal,” he said.

Funding for both programs could be restored, but it would require an agreement negotiated between the governor and Legislature. So far, that hasn’t happened.

“So now I’m working for a freelance job online,” Bennett said. “Somewhere so I can make enough money to afford the rest of my tuition here.”

Pappas says all of the 2,000 Davenport students who were set to receive the tuition grants will be able to continue their studies. He’s hoping the governor and legislators can reach some agreement to restore the program.

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