Facing a recession, the University administration is already anticipating that the 2003 budget will be less flexible than those of previous years. Because 10.5 percent of the University”s budget is comprised of state funding, administrators are hoping to minimize tuition increases.
“We”re always trying to balance the need to hold tuition increases to a reasonable level, while still providing students with a high quality education,” said University spokeswoman Julie Peterson.
Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bingham Farms) said a revenue shortfall will be reflected not only in a tuition increase, but also in cuts across the board.
“We”ll try to keep any possible tuition increase that is low as possible, while balancing all the various priorities and needs within the University,” he said.
But interim Provost Paul Courant has said that the University has had a long-running policy of making financial aid a top priority.
“If tuition goes up, financial aid will go up proportionally,” said Courant.
Education has always been a priority for the state Legislature. When the budget was cut last year, higher education as well as K-12 programs received marginal increases. However, several state legislators said a budget equal to last year”s would be a triumph for the higher education subcommittee.
“We are barely going to be able to hold our own,” said Rep. John Stewart (R-Plymouth).
However, Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.) was slightly more optimistic. She said education has faced a decrease in funding in the past, and although “things look bleak,” cuts will be as minimal as possible.
“I think the appropriations committee will do the best they can to protect the institutions,” Smith said.
However, Smith, whose constituency includes the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, said she is against any tuition caps. She added that sometimes tuition needs to be raised a certain amount to maintain the integrity of the institution.
“If you cap tuition rates, then you have to make sure there”s enough in appropriations,” Smith said.
While it is not evident yet whether cuts will be necessary, administrators say efforts will be made to ensure that every area will be equally affected.
“It is not the case where any unit will receive all the cut or any unit will be spared the cut,” said James Penner-Hahn, the University”s associate vice president of research.