Ending a long period of budgetary debate, the Board of Regents announced its fiscal plan for the upcomming year, which, among many decisions, involves a 6.5 percent increase in tuition.
The tuition increase remains the lowest among public universities in Michigan. It will add an extra $490 a year to an incoming LSA freshman, hiking the cost of tuition to $7,975.
Provost Paul Courant said there is often a direct relationship between state appropriations and the rate of tuition; with a higher state appropriation rate, lower tuition can be expected. As a result of a weakened economy this year, budget cuts in the state of Michigan translated into a state appropriation rate of 10 percent.
Tuition increases are marginally lower at 6.5 percent, less than they were a year ago at 7.9 percent, when the budgeted state appropriations were at zero percent.
“(The percent tuition increase) is the lowest in the state. The last time we had to deal with a negative budget increase was in 1982 and we responded by a 18 percent tuition increase,” Courant said.
Courant added that both the academic and administrative units had to make cuts to keep up with rising enrollment and research activity, which continue to grow despite budget cuts in the University.
“Every piece of the University took a cut. The administration took a larger cut than academic programs. 275 staff positions and 50 faculty positions were eliminated campus wide through attrition as well as layoffs,” he said.
As a result of these layoffs there will be less faculty and Courant worries that “(the) Michigan experience will be leaner than in the past.” He added that as a consequence there will be a higher student-to-faculty ratio, as well as instances where courses will be discontinued when the professor leaves, instead of hiring a visiting professor to take over the course, as was done in the past.
Courant states that the University has had to face similar cuts in the past while maintaining quality and standards. “Michigan … has increased it’s productivity level in the face of such serious budget cuts.”
But some students are concerned that the tuition increase will counter the University’s efforts at achieving a diverse student body.
“How can they expect a more diverse student body when diversity includes wealth brackets so that by raising tuition, fewer, less fortunate people can attend the U?” LSA junior Josh Riga said. “All around, I think education is a great investment and that the return is greater than the cost.”
“It sucks,” he added.
“Raising tuition would definitely not promote the economic and racial diversity on campus and other alternatives should be considered,” first-year Rackham student Jason Gavilon said, adding that he believes the problem stems from the poor national economy and the lack of a more aggressive system of taxes.
While opinions on the origin of the state’s deficit vary, no one disputes the gravity of its impact.
Courant commented that “We’re being called to absorb the $36.4 million state funding cuts while increasing our activity – we’re being called to do more with less.”
“We’re returning to the same funding as five years ago,” Courant added. “I don’t view this as a crisis, but boy, it’s been a hard year.”