LANSING In appealing to the state House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee for a more than 6 percent increase in funds, University President Lee Bollinger yesterday assured legislators that the money would be put to good use.
“I hope my message to you is we are doing very well at the level of aspiration you want,” Bollinger told the committee members.
Highlighting the achievements of the University in the past year, Bollinger noted that one faculty member has been awarded a Nobel Prize, another was named a finalist for the National Book Award and one is heading the project to sequence the human genome.
“There has been a stunning increase in the amount of awards research awards that our faculty receives,” Bollinger said, adding that it serves as “an enormous testimony to the quality of faculty at the University of Michigan.”
Bollinger said retention and six-year graduation rates at the University are the highest among Michigan”s 15 public institutions, at 98 percent and 83 percent, respectively.
“Students are extraordinarily happy about the University of Michigan as you know,” he said. “So happy, I can”t quite figure out why.”
Bollinger also spoke of the University”s success in using its money wisely. This year the University of Michigan and the University of Texas were the first two public schools to be awarded a triple-A rating in financial management from Moody”s Investor”s Service.
Science took a large role in the questioning, as Rep. Charles LaSata (R-St. Joseph) asked Bollinger about the University”s involvement in developing the next generation Internet, known as Internet 2, a program mentioned by Gov. John Engler in his State of the State address last month.
The University was “at the center of the development of the Internet and we have to stay there,” Bollinger said.
Bollinger also talked about the Human Genome Project, headed by Prof. Francis Collins.
“What we are facing is a revolution in knowledge,” he said. “The University of Michigan must be at the forefront of this.”
Engler”s proposed 2002 higher education budget would give universities a 1.5 percent across-the-board funding increase and an additional 1.5 percent contingent upon repeal of the state”s tuition tax credit.
Legislators also questioned Bollinger on the current system of funding. The tier system, which places public universities into five separate funding levels, was implemented in the higher education budget two years ago and debated heavily last year.
The University of Michigan would receive no additional state funding next year under the tier system.
Based on Bollinger”s assertion in his written statement to the committee that the tier system needs to be modified in order to separate the different types of programs that require different levels of funding, Rep. Keith Stallworth (D-Detroit) asked Bollinger how the Legislature can recognize the significant economic role played by the University.
“We really need your support as well as the research capabilities available,” Stallworth said, adding that the Legislature does not seem to be doing an adequate job in covering the advanced research portion.
“We have an array of things that we”re doing at our institution,” Bollinger said. “It”s very important that we as leaders of these institutions explain what we”re doing and why we”re doing it.”
The discussion soon turned to the role of university autonomy and the Legislature”s role in choosing what projects should receive more or less funding.
“Is it truly the role of the legislative body to decide what curriculum is important?” subcommittee Chairwoman Sandra Caul (R-Mt. Pleasant) asked. “We”ve given that responsibility to the board and the trustees.”
Bollinger emphasized that his main point was that funding differences need to be taken into consideration by the Legislature. “When you have a college of engineering, that”s a lot more expensive to run than a law school,” he said.
The committee seemed to react well to Bollinger”s request. Second generation University alum Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) said he wanted to make his biases very clear. After his questioning, Kolb said, “I want to thank the University for being such a welcoming, challenging and warming institution to go to.”