In a meeting yesterday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she’s not certain how much funding the University will receive from the stimulus package, but said plans are underway in case additional money is received.

While answering questions from members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, Coleman said University administrators are currently working on next year’s budget and preparing for a possible influx of money from the recently passed $787 billion federal stimulus package. However, Coleman said she is not certain if any stimulus money directed to the state will actually be given to the University.

“What I don’t understand is whether any money from the state … will actually come to universities, or will all of that be reserved for K-12 or will that all be reserved for infrastructure,” she said.

Coleman said the University has already proposed $300 million in possible capital projects at all of the University’s campuses that could net stimulus funds from the state. She added, though, that the state hasn’t released any funds to the University for construction projects in several years.

Although many details remain unclear, Coleman said if the state accepts the federal stimulus money, one of the stipulations of the bill is that Michigan legislators must agree not to cut the University’s funding.

“If the state accepts the stimulus money, the budgets of the University cannot be cut below their 2008 levels,” she said.

Coleman said while this is good news, the University’s funding is much lower than in previous years, despite rising cost factors like inflation.

“Not only have they not increased our operating budget, it has been decreasing,” she said. “When I came here in 2002, state allocation was about $365 million. (Now) we’re down to $320 (million) or $325 million.”

Coleman said that some of the money from the stimulus package will also be given to federal agencies that would then release the funds in the form of competitive grants.

“There’s money that federal agencies will get that we will then have the possibility to compete for,” she said.

The University is also very conscious that any stimulus money is a one-time allocation that should be used for one-time expenses, Coleman said.

“The one thing that we have been talking about, and I think it’s a very important principle, that the University has adhered to ever since I’ve been here and when we’ve had to deal with budget cuts, is that we have not used one-time money for ongoing costs,” she said. “We don’t want to introduce a structural deficit that we will have to pay the piper on in a few years.”

Coleman also discussed Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s call on state universities not to raise tuition next year, in an effort to aid families who may be suffering financially. Coleman added that there have been discussions within the University about a possible tuition freeze.

“In her State of the State address, she did ask universities to consider the possibility of freezing tuition,” she said. “I have a different viewpoint here because I try to look at any circumstance where artificial cost hasn’t created a crisis down the road, so I don’t understand that.”

In the end, Coleman told SACUA members that more information about the budget and funding levels will be clarified over the next few months.

“I don’t anticipate that much of this will become very clear for the next few months,” she said. “We just want to be ready.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.