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The University of Michigan announced a 3.9 percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 4.4 percent increase for out-of-state students in their approval of the $1.83 billion University budget for fiscal year 2017 at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday.
University President Mark Schlissel began the meeting by honoring the victims of the shooting in Orlando at a gay nightclub last Sunday. He pointed to the coming together of the campus community in its aftermath, highlighting the Requiem Mass, which was planned by a University alum and a graduate student, and the openness of the Spectrum Center, which opened its doors to all those looking for support in wake of the shooting.
Additionally, Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs (D— Grosse Pointe) announced that Regent Mark Bernstein (D— Ann Arbor) would take over as chair of the board with Regent Michael Behm (D— Grand Blanc) as his vice-chair.
Tuition and Affordability
Provost Martha Pollack presented the general operating budget, emphasizing a continued focus on enhanced diversity and inclusion, academic excellence and affordability.
Pollack announced a 3.9 percent tuition increase for in-state students, a 4.4 percent increase for out-of-state students and a 3.9 percent increase for graduate students, which translates to a $546 per year tuition increase for in-state students and $1,934 for out-of-state students.
Several regents noted their opposition to the increase in tuition — despite the corresponding increase in financial aid — as they believe it fails to address the overarching issue of rising higher education costs.
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R—Ann Arbor) criticized the budget, saying the increase in financial aid does not offset the overall rising cost of higher education.
“Whether it comes from the University of Michigan’s general fund or from the government, more financial aid does not solve the underlying problem of rising college costs,” she said. “It only makes the University of Michigan less affordable, especially for middle class students and their families, who are least likely to qualify for financial aid.”
Regent Denise Ilitch called out state officials for an overall disinvestment in education, pointing to how funding on an individual basis for prisoners is higher than that of students within the state.
“The state of Michigan spends roughly 25 percent more on prisons than on education,” she said. “The state of Michigan spends roughly $34,000 per prisoner and $11,000 per student. I first would like to use my public responsibilities to encourage Michigan citizens to think about the disinvestment our state, our governor and our legislature have made with respect to the budget in not prioritizing education.”
Fitzgerald said the University is concerned about the lack of funding for higher education, but he understands that the Michigan economy has been through some rough times and hopes that funding will continue to increase as the economy improves.
Ryder Diggs spoke in favor of the budget, stating that, for the University to continue to improve, costs will need to be addressed.
“Divestment is not going to lead us anywhere; that is not going to lead us to the future that we need,” she said. “And in order to do that we need to spend the money, as Regent Deitch said, that will invest in our future.”
The general operating budget was ultimately passed with five for and three opposed.
In his remarks to the board, Central Student Government President David Schafer, a rising LSA senior, noted how students lacked the opportunity for input into the tuition increase. His statement echoed an aspect of the platform he ran on with the newMICH party, which called for an increase in student representation on the board.
“I have yet to hear of any structured student input on these decisions,” he said. “Frankly I don’t get that. It makes little sense to me. We are the ones these decisions impact. We are the ones who bear the burden of balancing school while having to find an additionally paid work on the side … This is our future we are talking about, this is our education.”
The tuition increase comes in wake of a 4.2 percent increase in state funding for the University from in the most recent budget proposal. The tuition increase also nears the 4.8 percent cap set by the state, which accommodates the funding increase.
However, in 2011 under his first budget, Gov. Rick Snyder cut higher education funding by 15 percent. This year’s increase in higher education funding only now brings aggregate funding back to pre-2011 levels, but despite the aggregate return, the University still receives 7.8 percent less funding than it did prior to 2011 under the proposed budget.
In a Feb. 15 interview with the Daily, Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president of government relations, noted that, despite funding remaining below pre-2011 levels, the University receives a significant proportion of the higher education budget in comparison to other institutions.
“It’s important to keep in mind that, of the $61 million that has been recommended by the governor, the University of Michigan will receive 21 percent,” she said. “The percentages mask the resources that actually are being provided to the University, so from my perspective 21 percent of $61 million is a good outcome.”
However, in a February interview with the Daily, State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) highlighted how the state’s largest university continues to have funding below 2011 levels.
“Our flagship institution is going to be below where they were when the governor took over,” he said. “I was happy when I found out it was going to be back from the cuts in 2011, but I found out that wasn’t true. There are certain institutions that are not being treated as well as the others.”
According to Pollack, the increased revenue from tuition will go toward academic programs and financial aid.
Addressing a renewed emphasis on affordability, Schlissel announced a 10.8 percent increase for undergraduate financial aid, which is the ninth double-digit increase in aid in the past ten years. According to Pollack, approximately 70 percent of in-state students receive financial aid.
Pollack said the University’s goal for many years has been to increase grant support — which does not need to be repaid — and to reduce debt burdens.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald noted that the University aims to cover 100 percent of need for in-state students and has been continually expanding the definition of who qualifies for need.
The University’s academic excellence plan involves enhancing interdisciplinary work, diversity, equity and inclusion, and student support services.
Athletic Director Warde Manuel presented the fiscal year 2017 Athletic Department Operating Budget, which projects an operating surplus of $0.8 million.
The surplus can be attributed to increased sponsorship revenues from the new Nike apparel agreement, special events held at Michigan Stadium and an additional home game.
Fischer Newman noted that the athletic department does not take any funds from the general fund and instead pays into the fund by providing financial aid for student athletes.
Bernstein noted that raising ticket prices does not differ largely from rising tuition costs. However, Ilitch countered saying ticket prices are not raised every year, as that would result in a decrease in consumption.
Fischer Newman noted the difference between the two saying one is a choice to view a sporting event while the other is an investment into the future.
“One is a commercial opportunity for someone to attend a game, and the other is an education,” she said.
Editor’s note: a previous version of this article indicated that the NewMich platform had called for a voting member, not an increase in student representation.