Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that net price is the cost of tuition minus financial aid.
Following the recent increase in tuition and the release of statistics from the Department of Education listing the University as one of the most expensive public institutions in the nation, University officials ensure this will not inhibit the ability for students from all socioeconomic backgrounds to matriculate at the University.
According to University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham, the increase in tuition was imminent in light of the 15-percent cut to higher education approved by Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Despite this, she said the University will continue to ensure fairness in the admissions and financial aid process for students coming from all familial income brackets and provide increased support to students in lower income school districts.
While the University’s net price — the cost of attendance minus financial aid — is $16,888 compared to the average $10,747, according to the Department of Education, Cunningham said students are receiving more aid than ever before.
The increase in aid can be exhibited through the University’s Board of Regents recently approved $137 million financial aid fund, one of the largest sums of financial aid among public universities in the country and a 10.9-percent increase in University-funded financial aid for the upcoming year, Cunningham explained.
Additionally, 71 percent of in-state students receive need-based financial aid and those with household incomes of less than $80,000 pay less to attend the University now than they did in 2004, Cunningham said.
In an e-mail interview last month, Cunningham wrote the University does its best to mitigate the inherent barriers inhibiting students with financial struggles during the admissions and financial aid processes.
“(We can) state unequivocally that (the University) does everything possible to ensure accessibility for all qualified and highly motivated students,” she wrote. “The University is committed to meet the full demonstrated need of all admitted Michigan residents, and provides substantial financial aid to make sure that economic standing is not a barrier to Michigan residents.”
Cunningham added in addition to offering aid, the University has also invested considerable financial resources in K-12 programs that may foster an interest in attending the University.
Phillip Bowman, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University, said there are vast disparities in processes among public and private universities regarding both high school outreach and admissions programs.
“Historically, private schools have admitted students only with many of the critiques that you find in higher education — admitting children of the wealthy,” Bowman said. “It has become an ongoing challenge for elite public universities, such as the University of Michigan, to admit students regardless to their economic background because of the correlation between economic status and preparation to college.”
Bowman said students in lower income distributions have less access to materials and resources during their K-12 years, which yields a dilemma for universities like Michigan because there is an inherently skewed distribution based on the lower grade point averages and test scores commonly seen in statistics from students of lower socioeconomic statuses.
Bowman, however, explained the University has developed programs and processes to expand the set of outreach and recruitment activities to increase enthusiasm of attending college among students in lower income brackets.
He added that examining school size creates a challenge for all admissions committees at public universities in the country who must give equal opportunity for each student in the state, regardless of their hometown or school.
Furthermore, there are inherent hindering factors, Bowman said, because students in smaller schools have less access to the type of college readiness and academic preparation since smaller schools are less likely to offer Advanced Placement courses or have programs that equate to its alternative.
Nevertheless, Bowman added it is a two-way dilemma because the larger schools also make it harder to compete.
“If most of these students in the larger school have substantially higher GPAs, then their class percentile is lower, and it becomes more difficult to compare to the smaller school,” he said.
Bowman also explained there is a growing divide and conflict for top universities attempting to bridge the gap between providing access to higher education and maintaining a high level of competitiveness.
“I think it is a growing crisis, and that is because of the correlation between test scores, college readiness and income and wealth backgrounds of students,” he said. “On the other hand, you have a growing need to maintain global competitiveness across this nation.”
Bowman added it is important for institutions of higher education to educate the growing percentage of the economically disenfranchised in order for the country to remain competitive.
“The country however, I recognize, will not retain its status as a competitive nation unless the country is able to educate a larger percentage of the population,” Bowman said. “Many of whom are from middle and lower income backgrounds who are disproportionally getting access to your more elite reasons, largely because they don’t have the same access to public universities, but also because they don’t have the same type of K-12 preparation.”