U-M Plans 2.8% Hike In Tuition

Dave Gershman, Ann Arbor News, MLive.com, Jul. 16

In-state undergraduate students at the University of Michigan will pay $226 more in tuition next year—a 2.8 percent increase—while some of their classes will be bigger than before and some specialized courses will be cut back.

Those are among the features of a $1.163 billion budget for fiscal 2004-05 that was approved Thursday by the U-M Board of Regents.

U-M Provost and Executive Vice President Paul Courant on Thursday reiterated many of the almost $20 million in planned spending cuts that he first made public in May, including a cut of 122 jobs. Of the 122, 40 will be faculty jobs eliminated through attrition. The remainder of the cuts will include some layoffs, but Courant didn’t specify how many or when they would take place.

Among other cuts: The administration will spend less on travel and consultants and library hours will be reduced.

The budget reflects an expected state funding cut of $6.5 million—which comes on the heels of $36.5 million in prior state cuts the past two years.

Several regents expressed concern that the state legislature and governor are gaining greater control over the university’s tuition rates.

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said the university worked hard to preserve its core academic mission as it built the toughest budget in years, but it can’t continue to keep tuition hikes low without more funding from the state.

“Tuition restraint must be coupled with more robust and predictable state support, in addition to an emphasis on financial aid,” she said. “We cannot let this serious erosion of funding endanger the quality that our partnership with the citizens of this state has built over the past 187 years.”

Despite the cuts, the 2004-05 expense plan is 3 percent larger than this year’s budget.

The 2.8 percent in-state tuition increase means in-state freshmen and sophomores in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts will pay $8,201 per year. Certain other departments, such as engineering, have slightly higher tuition, and juniors and seniors also pay slightly higher fees under U-M’s longstanding tiered tuition schedule. In the new budget, out-of-state freshmen and sophomores in LS&A face a 5 percent tuition increase, to $26,028.

Adding to the university’s budget difficulties is the size of the incoming freshman class- possibly U-M’s biggest ever, with as many as 450 more students than this year. To prepare for them, U-M plans to spend more on introductory and popular classes to make sure students can take them. U-M also will spend more on financial aid.

“The quality of the university remains very strong,” Courant said. “We will assure that our students will have access to an excellent education, a Michigan education.”

U-M will also spend more on student services, reversing some of the cuts made in the past year and forestalling others that were talked about, all of which sparked student protests last spring. Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper said the budget sets aside money for an annual Native American celebration, and coordinators for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and multi-ethnic student affairs program, among other things. Money was also set aside for immediate and long-term repairs and programs at the Trotter Multicultural Center, which students had said the university was neglecting.

“We are focusing our effort on keeping our student programs and services as strong as possible under the circumstances,” Harper said.

An air of uncertainty, however, hung over the presentation given to the regents Thursday because the state has not passed its higher education budget and a House-Senate conference committee has not released its report.

The university has pegged its tuition increase to the rate of inflation, under a deal endorsed by legislative leaders and Gov. Jennifer Granholm that would limit the size of the cut to U-M’s state funding to 2 percent of last year’s state appropriation.

If the state cannot hold up its side of the deal and has to cut more, U-M will have to ask the regents to raise tuition again, administrators said. There is also a chance the tuition increase could go down, if the state determines the rate of inflation is less than 2.8 percent.

All of the six regents who attended the meeting voted for the budget, but several complained about the way state politics are increasingly becoming a part of the annual budget and tuition process.

“I have, personally, tremendous difficulty with the state being included in the setting of tuition rates,” said Regent Andrea Fischer Newman, R-Ann Arbor.

Added regent David Brandon, R-Ann Arbor: “I’m not going to vote in favor of any more deals being done by Lansing (that) de facto dictate to us what the tuition rates will be.”

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