At the first episode in what is guaranteed to be a summer-long debate about cost burdens on students, the University Board of Regents agreed today 7-0 to raise residence hall and family housing rates, 5.3 and 4.5 percent respectively. Regent S. Martin Taylor (D- Grosse Pointe Farms) was absent.

The Regents will vote on the budget and tuition increases in July. Last month, Governor Jennifer Granholm asked for a 6.5 percent funding decrease for higher education, and her budget awaits approval from the legislature. The University community is worried about a tuition increase even higher than last year’s 7.9 percent and more budget cuts.

“I’m truly concerned about the pressures on students and their families,” Olivia Maynard (D- Goodrich) said, adding that she understands the needs for the increases

Residence hall discussion dominated much of the meeting with Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper delivering a lengthy address in regard to new life safety and security initiatives currently being implemented. Installation of archival video cameras and automatic door locks – prompted by a wave of home invasions in residence halls in 2002 – has already occurred in several halls. She noted while the new devices are partially responsible for the increases; they remain necessary to keep crime at a low level.

“These systems have already proved their utility in six investigations,” Harper said, adding that only 35 home invasions occurred this academic year, down from 99 in 2001-2002. Harper also announced she plans on presenting a report to the board next fall about the future of the residence halls. Over the past year, various consultants met and conducted surveys with students to discuss positive and negative aspects of University Housing. Several regents raised the importance of keeping residence halls competitive with other Universities, especially as costs go up.

“There is a general perception that rates go up while quality goes down,” Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R- Ann Arbor) said.

Regent Larry Deitch (D- Bingham Farms) added that the University should look into more appealing creative solutions for University Housing, including partnerships with the private sector.

Also at the meeting, Provost Paul Courant presented two new proposals to slow the rate of health insurance expenditures that have doubled in the past five years. A short-term plan calls for all University employees and retirees to pay a piece of the cost of health insurance premiums starting in January 2004.

“This is a short-term solution that helps alleviate the budget pressure that has been created by the rapid increase of costs in this area,” Courant said, adding that currently 70 percent of University employees do not pay a co-premium.

For the future, a committee of faculty and students has begun to look into better health care plans. They plan to present their findings to the campus community in September.

The Regents also approved a schematic design for the new Computer Science and Engineering Building on North Campus. Construction will start in the fall and finish in 2006. The building is expected to be four floors high with a mechanical penthouse. There will also be a ground floor connection made to the adjacent Herbert H. Dow building, and several courtyards between the two buildings. The building should create approximately 60,000 square feet of offices, laboratory space, classrooms and common areas.

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