The University’s Board of Regents approved a 2.8 percent
tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students at
Thursday’s monthly meeting.

The percent increase represents an additional $226 to last
year’s tuition per year for incoming freshmen.

While unanimously approved, the regents were reluctant to
approve a budget that they said the state legislature imposed.

In early December, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed an incentive
to keep tuition increases at the rate of inflation. If the
University did not comply, the state would have reduced state
funding by 8 percent, instead of the 2 percent the University now
anticipates. This 2 percent cut equals $6.5 million in state
appropriations, on top of a $36.5 million reduction from the past
two years.

Regent Andrea Newman, who initially protested the acceptance of
the incentive, called Granholm’s proposal a political move
and, with the support of other regents, refused to vote in favor of
a similar budget for next year.

“The governor and the legislature don’t understand
the impact on the quality of education,” Newman said.

“We were elected to set tuition rates, and I hope the
state will not dictate us anymore,” said Regent Andrew
Richner.

The low tuition hike coupled with reduced state funding created
a nearly $20 million deficit in the University’s budget. In
order to compensate, the University has implemented a number of
money-saving actions such as eliminating classes, increasing class
size and reducing library hours.

Provost Paul Courant assured that the cuts would not decrease
the quality of education or a student’s ability to graduate.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson conceded that the
“richness of choice” in classes would be affected,
while regents also worried about the long-term effect of continuous
cuts.

“We are now getting to the point where we are getting to a
crisis,” Regent Katherine White said. “We will suffer
in quality after this year.”

While nearly all departments were asked to find ways to save
money, other examples of the University attempting to balance its
budget are a reduction in 122 University staff positions and 40
faculty positions and a less-frequent cleaning schedule for
housekeeping.

The budget that was approved is still contingent on the
state’s higher education budget, which is being wrestled over
in a House-Senate conference committee.

The state has so far promised to adhere to the agreement, which
— on top of a 2 percent cut — also promises that it
will not impose any mid-year cuts.

But Courant said if the state cuts more, the University will go
back to the regents and ask for another tuition increase. “We
no longer have the flexibility to absorb yet another cut from the
state,” he said.

In the past two years, the state has imposed three mid-year cuts
totaling $3 million.The University will also have to make
adjustments if the state determines that the rate of inflation is
something other than 2.8 percent.

The budget also includes a 5 percent increase in tuition for
out-of-state students.

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