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Michigan Lawmakers Work On Free College Tuition Plan

LANSING (WWJ/AP) - How does free college tuition sound? Some Democratic lawmakers are working on a proposal that would do just that - pay for everyone's college tuition.

WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said Senate Democrats hope to raise $1.8 billion so they could pay tuition for either a 2- or 4-year program for every student in Michigan. The proposal would allow Michigan high school graduates to get grants of up to roughly $9,500 a year for attending college.

The grants could be used to pay tuition or associated costs at public universities and community colleges in the state.

The plan is to pay for it by taking and saving the closings from tax loopholes, taxing Internet sales, and shaving lucrative state contracts with private vendors by 6 percent.

The Democrats figure this initiative could help the state retain and even bring in more students. State aid for public education has dwindled in recent years, with universities facing a 15 percent reduction in state aid for operations in the current fiscal year. Universities say reduced state aid is a major factor contributing to tuition increases.

Skubick said Lansing Republicans might not go along with the idea, but Democrats could urge Governor Snyder to support it anyway.

The grants would be renewable for up to four years. The size of the grant would be based on how long a particular student spent in Michigan's K-12 school system, with the maximum annual amount pegged to the median tuition level at Michigan's 15 public universities.

Democrats say the plan could be accomplished without tax increases for Michigan citizens. But some businesses or others who could lose tax credits or exemptions under the plan would face higher tax bills than before, which would be a concern for Republicans.

"Senate Republicans are open to discussing ideas for how to keep our students in Michigan and to encourage them to attend our state universities, but we also must always be cognizant of the costs associated with any new policies," said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville.

Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Michigan Senate, 26-12.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's administration would not react directly to the Democratic proposal Wednesday because it hasn't seen specifics of the plan.

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said the governor is committed to helping ensure college affordability and investing in education when possible.

"That said, it's also simply not just about more money," Wurfel said in an e-mail. "It's about achieving the best outcomes and results possible."

TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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