In a hearing of the state Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Friday, Interim University President B. Joseph White confirmed that the financial status of the University is strong.
“Vital signs are by and large very positive,” White said, also citing recognition of this fact through a solid bond rating and high excess demand for University programs.
White expressed three concerns for the future: Competing with other universities, making a Michigan education affordable and increasing the ability to do “great things.”
He said support from the state has been “exceptional,” but he is concerned the University will have difficulty competing with richer private institutions. “No other university competes with fewer resources,” White said.
“We don’t have to be as rich, but we do have to achieve a threshold level of resources. The distance between where we are and where we need to be is a little greater than what I would feel comfortable with,” White said.
Sen. John Schwarz (R-Battle Creek), a University alum, supported the University in its endeavors to compete.
“This is the finest public university, not only in the United States, but in the world. We were first to become, in every good sense of the phrase, an academic Disneyland,” Schwarz said.
Schwarz said he has concern for the number of students now commuting to campus, and the sense of community suffers as a result.
White echoed Schwartz, and said he believes a new residence hall could be built on north campus within the next five years.
White also repelled the notion that the University of Michigan Hospitals could be sold to a private company, as have done other university medical centers across the nation.
“My feeling at this moment is over my dead body,” White said.
The hearing was the last for Schwarz and Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith (D-Salem Twp.). Neither will be eligible for re-election due to term limits, and both are seeking their respective party’s nominations for governor.
Rep. Chris Kolb (D-Ann Arbor) assured White that “The new cast of characters will rise to the challenge.”