An essential investment in the future of MSU

07-25-2005

Last week, the MSU Board of Trustees made the difficult, but necessary, decision to raise tuition.

In approaching that decision, we refused to sacrifice MSU’s quality or access in the name of expediency, nor would we attempt to resolve our ongoing budget shortfalls solely on the backs of our students.

In the end, we opted for a plan that raised the total cost of attending MSU for a typical returning lower-division student by only 7.5 percent and by only 9.9 percent for a typical incoming freshman. That puts us eighth in terms of total cost among the list of 15 Michigan public universities – right in the middle of the pack.

It was vital that we remain a recognized value, not only to our students, but to the state of Michigan and people around the world. And it was essential that we continue our practice of balancing quality with access. Therefore our plan includes an unprecedented level of financial aid assistance, up 15 percent over last year and includes the largest recurring financial aid allocation in MSU history to preserve that access.

The number of students at Michigan State – like other places around the state – has grown. Our research and development activity has grown, bringing with it economic benefits both to the state of Michigan and to the greater Lansing region. In the last year, the Cherry Commission asked the state’s universities to do even more to enhance their efforts to prepare Michigan students for success in the emerging knowledge economy and to double the number of Michiganians with degrees or certifications within ten years. Yet the proposed state appropriation support for the coming year is essentially at 1983-84 levels in constant dollars.

We take seriously our responsibility to make the most of every dollar and to treat each one as if it were our own. Our cost containment efforts are part of how we routinely do business. We’ve implemented internal reductions and reallocations of more than 16 percent over the past four years, and cost containment efforts in the areas of energy and health care exceed $22 million per year.

MSU’s policy of tuition restraint over the past decade means that we gave up some $35 million in tuition dollars that we would have received compared to other Michigan universities if we’d raised tuition at the same rates as our peers. Because 88 percent of MSU students are from Michigan, that money went into the pockets of Michigan students and their families.

We understand some of the constraints on Michigan’s leaders and the challenges they face resulting from a lagging state economy. Hopefully, the next budget cycle will be better. But we have to worry about the long-term future of MSU now.

We believe we’ve continued our commitment to educational quality and broad access with our 2005-06 budget and tuition policy. I urge you to look at the information and the data as outlined on the web.

These were difficult actions for me to recommend to the Board. However, they were necessary and represent an essential investment in the future of Michigan State, and more important, in the future of our students and those whom we serve.

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