In light of state budget cuts, Regents approve tuition increase

By Joseph Lichterman, Daily News Editor
Published June 16, 2011

After a historic drop in state funding, the University’s Board of Regents voted on Thursday to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

In a 6-2 vote, the regents approved a 6.7-percent tuition increase for in-state students and a 4.9-percent increase for out-of-state students. The tuition hikes translate to a net increase of $797 for in-state students and $1,781 for out-of state students for next year.

Despite the increases, University administrators emphasized that some students may actually pay less than they did for the 2010-2011 academic year, as the amount of need-based financial aid available will increase by 10.9 percent to $137 million.

“These extraordinary amounts of support mean that a typical Michigan resident undergraduate, with a family income of less than $80,000, pays less today … than in 2004,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said at the meeting.

In addition to tuition increases, the University was forced to cut $44 million from the budget in order to close a $47.5 million shortfall as a result of a 15-percent cut in the state higher education appropriation that has been approved by the state legislature and is awaiting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature.

In prior years, the University was able to eliminate funds solely from the operational budget. This year, however, University Provost Philip Hanlon said the cuts will impact the academic side of the University.

“That was no longer possible this year with the magnitude I state reduction,” Hanlon said at the meeting. “We have had to impact the academic work in significant ways this year.”

The University was able to cut those funds by, among other things, closing academic centers, like the Center for Ethics in Public Life, offering fewer small classes and requiring University employees to share more of the costs for their benefits.

Regents Laurence Deitch (D–Bingham Farms) and Denise Ilitch (D–Bingham Farms) voted against the tuition increases.

Deitch railed against the state government, saying the cuts in funding of this magnitude would lead to “a shift to privatization with a public benefit in this investment.”

“I hope this is a one shot deal,” he said.

Ilitch said she voted against the proposals because the University was becoming “out of reach” for lower income students, especially as this will mark the 14th straight year the University has raised tuition.

Deitch echoed Ilitch’s sentiment, saying he thought the extra $9.2 million in financial aid was “great,” but not extensive enough for working families.

“There’s lot’s of folks who don’t qualify and take on the entire burden (of tuition),” Deitch said.

Regent Julia Darlow (D–Ann Arbor) countered by saying she supported the proposal because the most needy students will still be receiving aid and won’t be impacted by the higher tuition.

“Any student with need who has been getting aid will not be financially impacted by this increase, and in fact will be better off this year than (they were) last year, and that’s been true for the past couple of years,” Darlow said at the meeting.

Michigan Student Assembly President DeAndree Watson also spoke at the meeting, and said maintaining financial aid is crucial for ensuring socio-economic diversity amongst the student body.

“We appreciate the intellectual chemistry that is produced when a first generation college student from a small rural town studying engineering has the opportunity to interact with an art student from New York,” Watson told the regents. “Diversity is bigger than race.”

The regents also approved an increase in the General Fund Budget for the Ann Arbor campus, which increased by 2.18 percent to $1.55 billion.

Tuition and budgets for the University’s Flint and Dearborn campuses were also approved.