Coleman: Expanding University of Michigan student body would cost too much
Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman told a group of professors Monday that significantly expanding the student body would cost too much.
She said the university is "crunched" for space and that growing the university body would mean more property acquisition, new construction or public-private partnerships and the hiring of additional faculty to keep U-M's student-to-teacher ratio low, all of which has a "very high" margin of cost.
"I walk around the campus at night and I'm sort of looking at what kids are doing and they are using every square foot of space," Coleman told the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. The committee is the executive arm of the Faculty Senate.
"They're everywhere," she continued.
Coleman also spoke to committee members about the Penn State scandal Monday, and the commitee approved a resolution to set expectations for university community members who suspect criminal activity.
Coleman said administrators recently studied "how to make every space count" and the potential for growth at the Ann Arbor campus and found that expanding now is not a feasible option.
"It was one of the most valuable things we’ve ever done," Coleman said of the space study.
Enrollment this year is at record levels.
This fall, 42,716 students — including 6,251 freshmen — are enrolled at the university, compared to 6,496 freshmen and 41,924 total students last year.
This year's increase comes despite a concerted effort to stabilize U-M's growth to fewer than 6,000 students in the freshman class. It also comes at a time when university dorms are particularly crunched for space.
Coleman said increasing the freshman class by 10 percent — which would mean more than 600 additional students — "has huge implications."
"It's not a crazy idea," she said. "But ... think about the cost ... for not only residence halls, for everything, and for faculty."
"It gets difficult," she continued. "It really does."
Instead of growing, the university plans to enroll fewer students next year, though Coleman did not mention that at the Monday meeting.
Committee member and statistics professor Ed Rothman said he was in favor of increasing class size at the university.
He said the university could accommodate for the lack of space by acquiring more property or creating a public-private partnership with Ann Arbor apartment complexes.
"Because of our excellence, because of the value that I think our education system provides to so many of our students, I've been a strong advocate of increasing the student body size," he said to Coleman.
Rothman also noted that admitting more students would "increase revenue to a certain extent" and offset some of the costs of expanding.