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President George Ross stresses CMU’s importance to Michigan education during meeting with subcommittee on higher education

University President George Ross testified at the state Capitol Tuesday and emphasized the importance of Central Michigan University’s role in educating Michigan students.

Ross was in Lansing in order to push for more higher education funding from the state. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education is holding a series of meetings with the presidents of Michigan’s 15 public universities as part of the budget process.

“An investment in Central Michigan University is an investment in the state of Michigan, its businesses, residents and families,” Ross said.

Ross said CMU’s state appropriations made up 44 percent of the university’s funding in 2003, down considerably from 78 percent in 1983.

Now, the university has an annual operating cost of $440 million, with the state government supplying just 14 percent of its funds, which is a 30-percent drop from 10 years ago, when the university received about $3,800 per student in appropriations, according to a 2003 Central Michigan Life article.

“The support for higher education has continued to decline, and there is an inverse relationship between it and the increase of tuition. Throughout all of these difficulties, we have strived to make our campus affordable for students,” Ross said.

CMU has increased tuition by $41 per credit hour since 2008, including a 1.96-percent hike for the 2012-13 school year, which was the lowest tuition increase of any university in the state.

“Over the last three years, CMU has had the lowest tuition increase of any public university in the state of Michigan. We will continue to find a way to be modest with our tuition, even though it brings tremendous pressure to maintain quality on our campus,” Ross said.

Ross said financial aid is a popular way students afford school, noting 87 percent of CMU students receive financial aid, and $14 million has been put toward financial aid in the past two years.

Ross said CMU has a large impact on the state of Michigan, saying that 95 percent of CMU’s undergraduates are from Michigan, and 93 percent of students enrolled are Michigan residents. Further, 78 percent of CMU graduates remain in Michigan after college.

Ross touted the university’s efforts to reform the curriculum to best suit the needs of the state. He mentioned academic prioritization, which is a process led by the provost that streamlines the amount of money allocated for university programs.

“We are forward-focused at CMU,” he said. “Two years ago, we prioritized all 401 of our academic programs, which resulted in reducing almost 70 academic programs in the past 18 months. As we look at the needs of the state, we are looking at our curriculum and trying to align it with those needs.”

Ross also took time to thank the board and Gov. Rick Snyder for a $30 million grant toward the proposed construction of a biosciences building on campus, which those in the biology department say is needed because of the lack of quality lab space.

“Biology is our fastest-growing major,” Ross said. “We’ve doubled our enrollment in the past five years, and we are operating in a 1964 facility. Your efforts have helped us in that regard and are very much appreciated.”

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