At yesterday’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting, University President Mary Sue Coleman addressed how the University plans to remain attractive to prospective and current students in the future.

In addition to discussing how to maintain the University as a top competitor among other public institutions, Provost Philip Hanlon and Coleman spoke to the University’s lead faculty governing body about the University’s financial outlook and lauded the necessity of seeking outside funding sources.

Coleman said the University has “an academic environment that is almost unparalleled,” adding that its focus on global opportunities and its vast involvement in the arts are particular areas where the University hopes to demonstrate its excellence.

“The great strength of the University is in the breadth of its scholarly endeavors,” Coleman said. “ … We are trying to engage students in as many ways as we can.”

Coleman continued, discussing the necessity of providing accessible and affordable education for University students.

“We have to find ways to offer higher education at a cost that is sustainable,” she said.

However, she said many states, including Michigan, are disinvesting in higher education, noting that the state has continued to decrease allocations to higher education funding over the past few years — including a 15-percent cut to higher education funding enacted by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in the last fiscal year.

“The state has a role, and we need to be articulating that role,” she said.

While Coleman said the University understands that the state can’t provide funding at the levels it has previously sustained, she said she hopes the gap in funding can be alleviated by donations from businesses.

“To be successful in this endeavor we need strong support and advocacy from the business community,” she said. “I am pleased that we have a group of business owners … that are advocating for a reinvestment in higher education.”

Outside of business and state support, Coleman also noted the need for private support for the University.

“Private support is no longer a luxury — it is a necessity,” she said.

Coleman said the University is tightening its budget, focusing on what she called “cost containment.” She said the University has saved $400 million in budget cuts since 2003, and plans to save an additional $90 million in further budget cuts this year.

“We have to find smarter ways to do things,” she said.

She said the funds saved from the cuts have been allocated toward need-based student financial aid and the hiring more staff, ultimately leading to the hiring of more than 150 new faculty members.

There was a double-digit increase in demand for undergraduate need-based financial aid in six of the last seven years, according to Hanlon. Hanlon said he is glad that the University had the money to invest in those areas.

“I’m glad that we were able to find the funding to do it,” he said. “I think (it) had (a) tremendous benefit.”

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