In spite of their request yesterday for a 4 percent increase in funding from the state government, University officials expect state budget allocations to remain the same or even drop.
The last fiscal year reflected no increase in state funding, which administrators said created the need for this year’s unusually large 7.9 percent tuition increase.
The budget request for the 2004 fiscal year, approved by the University Board of Regents at its monthly meeting yesterday, tempered the request for more money with acknowledgement that in a poor budget year, the University is unlikely to receive any additional funds.
University President Mary Sue Coleman said she does not expect to receive anything close to the $14.5 million increase requested. “I would be very pleased if we got the same budget as this year,” she said.
While an increase is essential for continuous growth and improvement, Coleman said, it is unrealistic in light of the state’s forecasted budget deficit.
The request reflects practical needs during a normal economic year, she said.
“We tried to be honest about what the needs are,” she said. “Clearly we don’t want Michigan to slip in quality.”
Student fees could increase again to support the University’s ongoing needs.
“Ultimately, what the state decides will impact tuition,” Regent Rebecca McGowan (D-Ann Arbor) said. “If the state can’t help the University maintain the (current) level of education, tuition will definitely be at play.”
While it will seek to find new sources of funding, the University is also likely to make spending cuts.
Postponing searches for new faculty members as positions open up is one of the easiest ways for the University to save money, Provost Paul Courant said.
A decrease in faculty would mean an increase in class sizes, but Courant said the impact would not be severe.
Faculty should be involved in making decisions that could cut their numbers, said Prof. Charles Koopman, chairman of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. But educators are willing to bear part of the University’s financial burden, he said.
“If it’s just a short period of time … although it may be extra work for the faculty, we could accommodate it. But it has to be a finite period.”
Andrea Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor), the only regent to oppose this year’s tuition hike, said students alone cannot absorb the impact of budgetwoes.
“You can’t put it all on the backs of the students,” she said. “We need to cut costs in other places, and it may hurt.”
Coleman does not expect the state government to make a decision until June, but she said the University is already seeking ways to tighten its belt.
“We need to make every dollar count,” she said. “We need to be frugal while maintaining quality.”