The two Republican candidates running for the University’s Board of Regents are striving to bring a more conservative perspective to the Democrat-controlled board as they vie for two open spots on Election Day.
Among their primary concerns are lowering tuition costs by reallocating the University’s endowment and encouraging more students to take spring and summer courses by offering lowered rates.
Republican candidate Dan Horning said he hopes to focus on lowering the cost for in-state students to prevent constant year-to-year tuition hikes. Specifically, he said he would like to work on ratios between in-state and out-of-state students that garner the greatest financial efficiency for the University.
“The biggest challenge today, for me, is striking the balance between in-state and out-of-state (students): engaging proper tuition for the out-of-state and international students and finding more access for the in-state students,” Horning said. “I think in-state students are paying too much, and I don’t think out-of-state students are paying enough.”
Horning was previously elected to the board in 1994 and served for eight years, primarily dealing with construction and facility improvement on Central Campus and serving as vice chair of the search committee that hired University President Mary Sue Coleman in 2002. Looking ahead to the possibility of a new term, he said he wants to make finances a primary focus.
Horning grew up in East Grand Rapids before studying political science and English at the University, where he also served as a student manager of the football team under Bo Schembechler. Since graduating in 1982, he has worked in private financial services and is currently the managing director for Northwestern Mutual.
Horning added that he would be a conservative voice to what he deems a liberal-leaning board, adding that he would provide a unique perspective as the only candidate for regent hailing from West Michigan.
Republican candidate Rob Steele said if elected, his primary focus would be providing funding for in-state students and encouraging them to stay and work at Michigan companies after graduating.
One of Steele’s biggest ideas is a plan that would make students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math eligible for a tuition refund program if they decide to stay in Michigan for more than five years after graduation.
“This is a way that the University can pay back this 150-year investment by the taxpayers.” Steele said. “In part (the endowment) should be used to improve the return investment to the state.”
Born and raised in Greenville, Mich., Steele, a cardiologist, graduated from the University’s Medical School in 1981 and served as a clinical assistant professor in the School of Medicine for more than 20 years. He also ran for Congress in 2010, losing to U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D–Mich.).
Steele said he also supports a plan that would reduce tuition during spring and summer terms to encourage students to graduate early as well as maximize facility use throughout the year.
Horning echoed Steele and said the University must make better use of the campus year round by encouraging students to take summer courses and offer them reduced tuition for those terms.
Horning added that he plans to lower tuition costs by finding alternatives to compensate for reductions in state appropriations, such as increasing donation initiatives and pushing for reallocation of the endowment.
While he said he would always be pleased to see increased state funding, he emphasized the importance of not relying on the state government.
“The state simply does not have the money … if the money’s not there, I don’t think we ought to assume the extra money’s coming our way,” Horning said.