From the President’s Desk
Adding up the facts: Michigan State University’s outstanding value
There’s a narrative that’s been developing about higher education based on anecdotes, misperceptions, and lack of information rather than actual data. In this narrative, college and university spending is out of control. Students graduate with massive debt, and the value of their degrees is questionable. Many even believe state funding for higher education has increased over the last decade.
I can’t speak for every university, but I can certainly speak for Michigan State. And that story just isn’t true.
Fact: Michigan has disinvested in higher education for more than a decade, cutting more than $330 million from public universities in the past 12 years. Today, only 22 percent of MSU’s operating costs are covered by state appropriations, compared to 75 percent in 2001.
Fact: When Governor Rick Snyder took office four years ago, he cut higher education funding 15 percent with the promise that once Michigan was back on track funding would be restored. I am happy to report that this year’s Governor’s budget proposal begins to restore some of that funding.
Fact: At MSU, we reduced spending by $110 million, including $28 million in health care coverage savings and $32 million in forgone wage increases. We streamlined our academic programs, modifying or eliminating 40 programs, and we eliminated post-retirement health care for new employees. In fact, efficiency measures go way back. MSU adopted a defined contribution retirement system back in 1973. So while most state and municipal governments are struggling to pay their legacy retirement costs, our legacy cost is less than $7 million, far less than the hundreds of millions owed by the State and municipalities.
On February 13, I made my annual presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. I used the slides below to tell the real story about Michigan State University’s value and relevance.
During my testimony, I applauded Governor Snyder’s fiscal year 2015 budget recommendation to increase higher education funding by 6.1 percent. We made the sacrifices and Governor Snyder is keeping his promise by making higher education a priority in Michigan again. Now it’s time for the legislature to act in support of our students and families and the future vitality of our state.
This slideshow tells an important story, backed up with facts. I invite you to take a minute to view it and to share it with your colleagues and friends. We need to work together to set the record straight and to support increased higher education funding. It’s the right thing for our students and their families. And it’s the right thing for Michigan’s future.
Adding up the facts:
Michigan State’s outstanding value
Highlights from testimony by Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon before the Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee
February 13, 2014
After inflation, the cost of higher education per student at Michigan public universities went up by only $217 (1.8 percent) over 12 years. At MSU, that increase was only $65. As this chart prepared by the House Fiscal Agency clearly shows, the increase in cost for higher education borne by students and families has been driven almost entirely by the dramatic disinvestment by the state.
As state disinvestment forced tuition increases to replace lost revenue from the state, MSU remained dedicated to preserving access for students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, increasing institutional student aid dramatically.
This year, MSU enrolled more low-income students than the five-year average. But dedication to access is nothing new. MSU enrolls more than 9,000 Pell Grant students. That’s nearly one in five undergraduates—almost as many as in all the Ivy League schools combined and 80 percent more than the average of MSU’s peer institutions.
MSU’s commitment to efficiency and student aid allows more than half of our students to graduate without any debt—far better than both the state and national averages—and helps hold down debt for those who do. This isn’t to say that we are not concerned about helping more MSU students avoid debt or that tuition isn’t higher than we would like it to be. But MSU has worked hard to address these issues, and you can see the results.
Our students graduate with an excellent education and a high-value degree. Recognized throughout the world, MSU is known and ranked among the best. The opportunities for an undergraduate at a major research university are unparalleled, and our Graduate School is known for its innovative approaches to career preparation.
MSU is a top-performing university when it comes to graduating students, and we’re dedicated to getting even better. Based on the characteristics of the students we admit, MSU’s actual six-year graduation rate for undergraduates is 14 percentage points higher than expected (as predicted by U.S. News & World Report), placing us second in the Big Ten for expected vs. actual performance.
Our placement rates are excellent. But just as important, so is the level of students’ satisfaction with their educational experience. In surveys of graduating seniors, more than 90 percent rate their educational experience as good or excellent and nearly 90 percent say they would choose MSU if they were starting again.
MSU’s external research funding has grown 80 percent in a little more than a decade, and in 2012, the university had an 11.6 percent increase in expenditures over the prior year—the fastest growth in the Big Ten.
MSU is a global university, but we are first and foremost a university for Michigan. We have a presence in every county in Michigan through medical schools, research stations, partner hospitals, and MSU Extension. Our economic footprint is more than $5 billion each year.
2014 State of the University
Bolder by Design
Bolder by Design is a continuation of the Boldness by Design strategic framework President Simon created to advance MSU as one of the world’s best public research universities.
Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee
Michigan State University and East Lansing: A Close Working Partnership
TownGown Michigan blog post by Diane Goddeeris and Lou Anna K. Simon
President Simon received the plan in April 2012 and it was approved at the April Board of Trustees meeting. Now under implementation, the plan will be reviewed every five years to review assumptions, goals, and technology. Learn more
View online report, featuring some of MSU’s work for the common good that was accomplished in 2012.
World Grant Ideal
The World Grant Ideal Monograph is President Simon’s vision for MSU and higher education in the twenty-first century.