Despite Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed cuts to higher education appropriations, University officials say they believe tuition increases for the 2011-2012 academic year will be limited.

Snyder has proposed a 15-percent cut in state funding to public colleges and universities in Michigan for the 2012 fiscal year. However, schools may receive less funding from the state if tuition increases exceed 7.1 percent — the state average of tuition hikes over the past five years.

In separate interviews with The Michigan Daily, University President Mary Sue Coleman and University Provost Philip Hanlon said they anticipate the University’s tuition increase will be less than the 7.1-percent limit set forth in Snyder’s proposed budget.

“I think that we will be within the tuition restraint that (Synder’s) required to get the extra piece of (the state appropriation),” Hanlon said. “I think that we are aware that his budget proposal isn’t the final budget, so we are thinking about contingency should the situation get worse, but our main planning is around the 15-percent cut.”

If Snyder’s plan is adopted by the Michigan Legislature in its current form, the University would face an approximately $47.5-million reduction in state funding. The University was appropriated $316 million from the state for the current fiscal year.

However, if the University’s tuition rate increase exceeds the 7.1-percent tuition guideline, the funding cut would increase by 5.2 percent, or about $14 million.

Coleman said the University will maintain its commitment to financial aid regardless of any tuition increase.

“We have always tried to match, with even more commitment, financial aid than with the tuition increase because we know that families are struggling …” Coleman said.

Though the state’s 2012 fiscal year begins in October, Snyder has repeatedly expressed his hope that the Legislature will approve a final budget by May 31. The earlier budget deadline would be “much easier” for the University, Coleman said, since administrators could calculate its budget based on actual figures, rather than projections.

“We’re very hopeful that the Legislature will act and that everything will get resolved in May, which is what the governor had hoped to have happen, but since we don’t have any certainty from the state yet that’s what we’re modeling,” Coleman said. “We are modeling the 15 percent.”

Until the budget is passed, Coleman said the University is making its budget plans based on Snyder’s proposal.

“Before, with the state, we’ve just had to make a guess, and though we have worked very, very hard … if we don’t get a resolution, it makes things much more difficult for us because we’re basing our tuition decision on a certain level of expected budget cuts,” Coleman said.

Traditionally, the University’s Board of Regents approves the University’s budget — including tuition rates — at its June meeting. With that date still two months away, Hanlon said he is pleased with how the University’s budgeting process is going.

“We’ve finished the budget meetings with schools and colleges and with the administrative units at this point, so the units have all had their discussions with us and we’re still early in the process in terms of talking to the board about a tuition increase …” Hanlon said. “But we’re at the point where we’re beginning to process all the information we’ve received; we’re beginning to weigh all the levers in our budget.”

As the state plans to decrease its funding for public higher education institutions, the University, has also been restructuring its costs. The University is planning to eliminate $120 million from its budget by 2017. However, Coleman insisted that regardless of decreases in state appropriations or internal spending cuts, the University is committed to a high level of research and academics.

“We can’t stand still on the quality level because everyone else is moving forward,” Coleman said. “So, if all those pieces come together, I think we’ve got a sustainable system here.”

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