The state of Michigan’s recent drastic cuts in higher education funding have hit the University hard, though the impact is even greater at its Dearborn campus. The branch campus of almost 8,500 students has seen state funding cut by an astounding 31.2 percent over the past five years. Now, no longer able to absorb the impacts of cuts in state funding, Dearborn has announced that its College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters will be cutting 30 of its total 664 course offerings beginning in the winter 2006 term. These cuts come in addition to the 12 course offerings already withdrawn by the School of Management and the School of Engineering’s cancellation of online course offerings. With some individual schools at the campus running deficits in excess of $1 million, the Dearborn administration is hardly to blame for these cuts. Instead, the blame once again rests with the state, which must get its priorities in order and realize the damage these cuts are doing to the quality of education at Michigan’s public universities.
The situation at Dearborn was tight enough without these cuts; students already complain of large classes and too few sections for certain classes. Those hit hardest by these new cuts will be students nearing graduation, some of whom fear they will not be able to graduate on time because the classes they need for graduation will fill up. These students have put years into obtaining their degrees, and it is sad that the state’s lack of focus may delay their graduation.
The Lecturers’ Employee Organization has protested the cuts because they will mostly affect part-time, adjunct faculty. While the cuts in course offerings may be inevitable because of state funding shortfalls, LEO has suggested six alternatives to reducing classes to help cover the financial deficits. These alternatives include reducing summer hours to 10 hours per day, four days a week, implementing a 5 to 10 percent pay cut for top officials, postponing the search for a new provost and building an economic partnership with the Ann Arbor campus. If these cuts could help ease the budget pressure at the Dearborn Campus in the short run, they are all worth considering. However, in the long run, only an increase in state funding can be a permanent fix to the problem.
Having to cut course offerings and facing an unending budget crisis will harm Dearborn’s reputation and its overall profitability as an institution. For example, Dearborn’s School of Management is up for accreditation in fall 2006 – but a shortage of full-time faculty, the direct result of insufficient funding, leaves it with little chance of success. The campus cannot afford to take such hits in funding and reputation. Being a small campus without the fundraising prowess of the Ann Arbor institution, Dearborn must depend on students’ tuition to survive. It has already been forced to raise tuition to amounts rivaling in-state tuition in Ann Arbor, all the while reducing the number of sections for classes and increasing class sizes. As students are compelled to pay more and more for less and less, they will find alternative institutions, leaving Dearborn out in the cold.