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Posted on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

Coleman: Expanding University of Michigan student body would cost too much

By Kellie Woodhouse


University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman told the executive arm of the Faculty Senate Monday that expanding the student body has a "very high" margin of cost. Here, Coleman speaks at the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building on Oct. 14, 2011.

Angela J. Cesere |

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.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Thu, Dec 8, 2011 : 12:22 a.m.

The UM wastes so much money…I used to work there and was appalled.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 6:56 p.m.

Having dorms at UM Dearborn (not sure if Flint has dorms) would help freshmen enroll there more easily and then when the current freshmen drop out, there would be space to move them to the Ann Arbor campus. UM Dearborn could provide transportation between the campuses as an added benefit for students who might take one day of classes in Ann Arbor. I'm not happy about the ugly student high rises going up everywhere, but I blame the city for allowing that. North Quad is at least nice looking and blend with the environment. When all the dorms are remodeled and back "online" will there be room for more students? Can more money go into teaching and less into non-student-contact jobs? I see that WCC is using UM buildings at night; can UM use their own buildings at night to teach? Can students take courses at times of day or night that might be less "ideal" for them in order to accommodate more students? Can less money go into "show": ie. the stadium and hospital ultra-upgrades (thanks donors!) and more into educating undergrads? UM does have a huge bank account (thanks to good financial advice), let's use it for undergraduate education; if not for more students, then for more oversight of the ones we have.

Simon Green

Wed, Dec 7, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

Did anyone think to ask Coleman what the purpose of a public university is?


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Mr. Rothman - We'll thank you not to acquire any additional property within the boundaries of the city. Every square inch of property the university gobbles up comes off the city tax rolls. This leads to budget issues. Budget issues lead to suffering. That is the path to the dark side...


Tue, Dec 6, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Maybe u could create a campus in say Copper Harbor for Freshman classes only.