Eastern Michigan University regents approve tuition increase and layoffs
Eastern Michigan University students will see a 3.65 percent increase in tuition — the lowest increase among state public universities — and about 70 positions will be cut as a part of the university’s 2011-12 budget.
The university’s Board of Regents voted unanimously to approve the budget in Tuesday’s meeting. The tuition increases and staffing cuts were a part of the $281.4 million university budget for the 2011-12 school year.
Earlier this year, the regents approved a 2.15 percent increase in room and board rates, including a 3 percent raise in rates for university apartments.
The tuition and fees increase will cost an undergraduate student taking 30 credit hours in a school year approximately $8,683, a $306 increase from the 2010-11 school year. The increase is about $10.20 per credit hour.
The increase will help fill an estimated $24 million combined loss from state funding and increased expenses for the coming school year. The general fund budget for the 2011-12 school year is $281.4 million.
President Susan Martin became choked up during the meeting when speaking about the budget cuts and said the budget process -- including the layoff of 40 employees and the elimination of another 30 positions through attrition -- was extremely hard for the university..
“This is a painful moment for Eastern,” she said.
The raise in tuition and fees is among the lowest in the state among public universities, compared to the 6.7 percent rise in tuition at the University of Michigan and the 6.9 percent hike to students at Michigan State University.
The university did not increase tuition for the 2010-11 school year and increased tuition by the same 3.65 percent in 2009-10. The tuition and fees increase will raise about $11 million for the university, according to university officials.
Regents said the decision to increase tuition will ultimately serve the student body well because of the improvements that will come from the increased amount of revenue.
Regent James Stapleton said the process had been thoughtful and regents had worked hard to make the right call for the school.
“I’ve never been involved with a process as difficult as this or as important as this,” he said. “We serve the people of Michigan and I think we served them well today.”
Martin said the increase in tuition will allow for a number of improvements in the student experience. She said a number of construction projects will be able to continue and the university will be able to provide more parking for students.
“We’ll continue on through the 122 buildings,” she said. “We’ve allowed some infrastructure to become too decrepit and we’re tackling that.”
The tuition increase was also well-received by the president of the Eastern Michigan University Student Government.
President Jelani McGadney said he recognized the decision to raise tuition was a difficult one for regents, but ultimately said it would be appreciated by students.
“It is a courageous decision because students cannot handle the increases that other universities have gone with,” he said.
The decision to eliminate 70 positions through attrition and the layoff of 40 employees was an extremely difficult one, officials said.
None of the layoffs will come from faculty members and are being spread around other departments at the university. The budget includes no raises for non-union employees.
Roy Wilbanks, chair of the Board of Regents, said it was difficult to know 40 university employees will have to be laid off as a part of the budget.
“I know most of those people,” Wilbanks said. “We were very arduous in our task and we tried to eliminate as much as we could and those are people who have been there for a while.”
The decision on the budget was the culmination of an intense discussion on the value of EMU’s staff that went on throughout the budget process.
Earlier in the budget process, Martin had asked faculty members to forego scheduled raises. The request was ultimately rejected by the various unions at the school
Regents were spoken to by a number of adjunct faculty during the meeting who lobbied for an increase in compensation. According to information from the Eastern Michigan University Federation of Teachers, the average adjunct faculty member makes about $12,000 per year and has no health, dental, mental or vision care offered by EMU.
Lisa Laverty, a lecturer at the university, said the cut to academic services at the university will harm the student experience for students at the school, including her son, who attends classes at the university as a part of the Early College Alliance and will continue to study at EMU for his bachelor’s degree.
Laverty said the university is sending a message to students that educators are not important and their relationships with students are similarly unimportant.
“Services will be less accessible, staff less available and faculty less able to provide extra programs that enrich students’ educations,” she said.
EMU chief financial officer John Lumm said administrators had worked very hard to limit tuition increases and keep cuts away from students.
“The budget was developed with a large focus on students, both in terms of minimizing the tuition increase and also by ensuring the efficiency actions being implemented do not impact students in the classroom,” Lumm said.