‘Strategic decisions’ will guide financial discussion

Central Michigan University President George Ross said he has numerous goals set for this year, but virtually all of them will be impacted by a large decline in enrollment.

CMU is facing an on-campus undergraduate enrollment rate that is set to drop between 5 and 7 percent this fall from last fall, in addition to facing $18 million in budget deficits for 2013-14.

Despite expressing a desire to find an ideal enrollment figure for CMU, Ross said he doesn’t have an ideal number of students he would like to see enrolled.

“Our enrollment, within the last few years, when I first worked here, was significantly lower than it is today,” he said during a meeting with Central Michigan Life’s editorial staff last week. “I had met an alumnus who went to school on this campus when enrollment was under 6,000, and he told me he got a great education and still loved the place. So, I don’t have an ideal number.”

Ross said CMU has faced worse budget crises, citing his tenure as vice president in 2003, but he will be issuing guidelines for campus debt reduction on Sept. 14 and 15.

“The challenges we face now aren’t to the level we faced then. At that time, we went through a process, which we’re going through now, as far as getting some broad guidelines to the campus,” he said. “Those budget decisions will not come directly from my office. We have a very decentralized budgeting and financial system at this campus. I’ll give broad guidelines.”

Despite looming expense reductions, Ross said it’s important to keep CMU going.

“We have to move the university forward. We have to invest in priorities,” he said. “But you don’t sit still, cut a little from everything, and not have the university moving forward. You have to make what I’ll call strategic decisions.”

Ross said the strategic planning process, which helps dictate how and why decisions are made at CMU, is winding to a close.

“(The strategic planning process) included students, it included faculty, it included staff across this campus – to identify priorities for the university,” Ross said. “It will drive our decisions, short-term and long-term, and will be a direct nexus between the strategic plan and the university operating in the capital budget.”

Five goals have been identified from the strategic planning process and approved by the Board of Trustees. According to Ross, these goals are student success, research and creative activities, community engagement, faculty and staff support and infrastructure.

Ross hopes that by emphasizing faculty support, the university can become stronger.

“Without a strong faculty, without a strong staff, we don’t serve students well,” he said.

Ross also elaborated on what he meant by infrastructure and how it plays a role in the strategic planning process.

“People hear infrastructure and think about a facility. It is that, systems that support the campus, that make the campus move. Anything that makes us move as an entity called CMU, falls into infrastructure,” he said.

The facilities master plan, which will focus on making CMU’s campus “walkable” and calls on the university to spend more than $400 million on 18 different capital projects, will be received at the September Board of Trustees meeting. The master plan will help to map out potential projects for the university over the next two to 10 years.

“(The plan) is probably the most comprehensive facilities master planning process I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve been in higher education for 25 years,” Ross said.

One Comment

  1. michmediaperson says:

    George, the education at CMU was better in the 60s and the 70s and the 80s and the 90s. Tuition was about $12 an hour back in the 60s and 70s. I think it was $99 an hour in 1999. Professors back in the 60s and 70s spent time with students instead of worthless research and union time.
    CMU ran lean and mean—little overhead. Students didn’t need loans and everyone left owing nothing.

    Completely different today.

    You need to rid the research nonsense from about 90 percent of the departments. This way you can slash half the faculty and lower tuition significantly.

    You show a $150 an hour tuition and you will have lines of high school seniors, JC transfers and MSU-WMU-EMU-GVSU students waiting in line.

    Plus, you can slash each department’s overhead. It’s amazing how many fundraisers and event managers you have on campus.

    From your PR department and every department, the amount of overhead is hurting CMU financially.

    What I said 5 years ago is becoming true. I said back then CMU would be hurting financially in the near future if overhead and expenses weren’t cut.

    Back in the 60s and 70s, we didn’t have all the multicultural overhead. We as students were a group and we worked together, not segregated like you have today with hyphenated-American months and groups.

    I’m sure George you saw the University of Virginia last week what Obamacare was going to cost them. With Obamacare around the corner which will eat your bottom line more, another Michigan recession eventually and fewer students available and the lack of jobs for college grads, your pool of talent will drop more significantly. Obamacare is making us a part-time job society.

    Now, you’re adding even more expense with downtown Detroit, Medical Schools and this new academic center.

    George, you need to do what Jack Welch did when he took over General Electric years ago. I’m sure you’re familiar with Welch since you’re an accountant by trade.
    He slashed personnel costs and re-structured the company.

    You need to downsize and re-structure CMU or the place is going to continue to decline.

    Students wanting a bachelor’s in computer science, accounting, teaching shouldn’t have to pay for all this overhead and nonsense.

    Bottom line George—You drop tuition to $150-175 an hour and you will have a massive increase of students wanting to come here.

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