Regent Kathy White (D), the 2014 chair of the University’s Board of Regents, is running for her third consecutive term on the board with the goal of continuing what she has started.
White is currently a Professor of Law at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit and an Instructor of Law at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York during the summer. She also serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve.
“I’m always in higher education and that is my real passion,” White said. “I’m either a student, or teaching, or governing. I think bettering the education of young adults and continuing education for adults is very rewarding and it changes peoples’ lives.”
White graduated from Princeton University in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering and computer science and obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Washington in 1991. She completed her Master of Laws degree at George Washington University Law School in 1996. Recently, she received her master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Penn.
White was elected to the Board of Regents in 1998 and reelected in 2006. She said her initial decision to run was partly inspired by an interest in promoting diversity on campus.
“I was very passionate about making sure diversity was a concern for the institution,” White said.
As calls for increasing minority enrollment echo across campus, White said she has been listening attentively to students about campus issues for years.
“I find that the young people today are very interested in making sure there is equality for everyone in a way that I didn’t see as much when I was younger and I didn’t see it as much twenty years ago,” White said. “There is a real demand for equality, engagement and interaction. I think that is what is really different.”
White said she is passionate about igniting change through creating opportunities for civil discourse on campus.
“Universities are a place where hopefully we get people from all different socioeconomic backgrounds, races, countries and states to come together in this one place where they can learn from each other and share perspectives,” she said.
Creating civil discourse, examining structural problems and aiming to have students engage with each other are all goals White said she has prioritized in past terms as a regent and will continue to prioritize if re-elected.
White has spearheaded and established projects during her time as regent to make in-state tuition available for all veterans. As of January 2014, students who have served in the military will be eligible for in-state tuition.
“I think it really helps to have young people who have had different experiences, who are maybe a little bit older, but have really experienced things that the rest of our society needs to learn about,” White said.
A priority for White throughout her experience on the board has been overseeing the University’s endowment. White said she aided in cost containment efforts, reducing costs of the general fund by $235 million between 2004 and 2012 and plans for an additional $120 million in reductions by 2017.
White helped preserve the endowment by smoothing out returns, she said. When the endowment returns are high the amount of money distributed to departments can be slightly limited or saved. This is done so when the endowment returns are low there is more to distribute to departments.
“It helps preserve the corpus of the investment,” White said. “The theory is over time if you strain spending, you can grow the corpus more and more and there is more available in later years.”
White discussed the financial impact of previous cuts to funding, specifically in 2011 when state appropriations were reduced by 15 percent.
“As we get more dependent on our own endowment to pay for the University’s operations because the state appropriation keeps decreasing, it is even more important that we are great stewards of that endowment,” White said.
White estimated the total cost of attendance for each student at the University is $55,000, or the cost of an out-of-state student’s tuition. The difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition is supposed to be the state appropriation, but because this has decreased there becomes a greater challenge for the University, White said.
“We are well aware that you can’t charge what it costs to everybody because they can’t afford it,” White said. “We want to have the best students regardless of their socioeconomic circumstances so we have to come up with ways to make up that gap.”
One of the key sources of providing funding will be the Victors for Michigan $4 billion fundraising campaign — $1 billion of which will be earmarked for financial aid. White said this effort aims to provide the University financial aid sustainability over coming generations, White said.
While this is White’s third time running, she said she has found continued enthusiasm for the job, particularly with the new leadership of University President Mark Schlissel.
“Schlissel is tireless and he is engaged,” White said. “I really want to help him be successful.”