Beginning the week of May 13, the
University will kick off its latest campus-wide fundraising
campaign known as “The Michigan Difference.” The goal
of the extensive campaign is to raise $2 billion dollars through
private donations by the end of 2008. In remarks made to the
University Board of Regents, University President Mary Sue Coleman
expressed optimism in the campaign, highlighting it as an integral
part of the University’s quest to maintain itself as one of
the nation’s premier public universities. This effort mirrors
that of the “Campaign for Michigan,” a five-year
program that began in 1992 with a target of $1 billion dollars. The
program eventually brought in over $1.41 billion, well-exceeding
its goal.

Mira Levitan

Twenty years ago, state appropriations, money given to the
University by the state government, made up 50 percent of the
University’s general fund. During the current 2004 fiscal
year, only 29 percent of the general fund comes from the state of
Michigan. This alarming decline has contributed to the budget
crisis faced at the University. This stemming of state funds has
forced the University to search for alternative sources of funding
such as “The Michigan Difference.” While the
University’s fund-raising efforts, intended to alleviate
budget problems through private donations, should be applauded, the
University should also seek to alleviate the need for such efforts:
that is, to reverse the decline in state appropriations to the
University.

As stated in an internal report from the Office of the Provost,
“While state appropriations represent a cornerstone to the
University’s strength, there has been increased reliance on
student fees, gifts, and departmental activities.” The
University receives the lowest appropriations by percentage of any
public university in Michigan. At the other extreme is Wayne State
University, which receives 57 percent of its revenue from
appropriations. This “increased reliance” on sources of
income, such as private donations or tuition, is highly unstable
and does not place the University in a financially secure
situation. The state of Michigan has not only an obligation, but a
vested interest to provide adequate appropriations to the
University. The University, when liberated from a dependency on
high student fees, can provide lower tuition to in-state residents,
thereby increasing the overall education level of the state’s
population. Private institutions such as Harvard do not receive
state funding and are not required to discriminate tuition levels
based on state residency. As a public institution, the University
should not have the expectation of working with a budget that
suffers from legislative budget trimming. In order for the state of
Michigan to continue to boast one of the top public schools in the
county, Lansing must prioritize and reallocate its budget to either
maintain or increase the current levels of appropriation.

Already, the University is feeling the sting of hindered
finances. The departure of Fawwaz Ulaby, the University’s
Vice President for Research, could be a harbinger of the effects of
a restricted budget. Citing a significant monetary commitment made
to Purdue University by the state of Indiana, Ulaby will leave the
University to become Vice President for Research at Purdue. The
Indiana state government understands that by giving public
universities the necessary resources to fully realize their needs,
they are equipping their schools with the necessary tools to stay
academically competitive. If state revenue continues to drop, it is
merely a question of how long the University’s competitive
edge will remain sharp.

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