Although University President George Ross argued a change in the per-student appropriations system in February, Central Michigan University has seen recent financial assistance increases in other areas.
“(Michigan has) had three consecutive years of increases all tied to performance funding and CMU is doing very well on performance funding,” said Michael Boulus, executive director of the State Universities of Michigan President’s Council. “They’re actually getting a much higher percentage compared to other universities.”
Part of Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2015 higher-education budget proposal includes an $80.3-million increase – or restoration – to higher education, with half being distributed through the performance-funding model, and the other half distributed to schools proportionally to make up for the 2011 cuts.
If the proposal is implemented, CMU is expected to get a 7.8-percent increase, the second highest increase to only Grand Valley State University, which is expecting a 9.5-percent increase.
Performance funding is not a new model and CMU has benefited from it in the past. It is calculated using statistics related to graduation and degree-completion rates.
Despite the increases mentioned by Boulus, the fact remains that CMU has continued to see low-funding numbers compared to other schools in the state. This influenced Ross’ asking for adjustments to the current per-student appropriations system to help CMU and other schools catch up.
Kathleen Wilbur, vice president of development and external relations, said the deficit is a result of work done by previous state legislators in support of other specific schools.
“There used to be some legislators when it was not term limited, but a full-time legislature, who really advocated for a couple campuses like Northern Michigan and Wayne State (universities),” Wilbur said. “No one has really caught up to those numbers.”
While testifying last month in front of the Michigan Senate Higher Education Committee, Ross addressed a major deficit in per-student funding for CMU students, adding that steps need to be taken to eliminate this inequality in funding.
“Why should a student at CMU be supported by less than $3,600 per year in state funding, while a student at Northern Michigan or Lake Superior State are supported by more than $5,600 per year?” Ross asked the committee on Feb. 13. “Why should that same student be worth $9,500 at Wayne State? We believe it is time to fix that inequity.”
Dollars and cents
According to information obtained from the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, CMU ranked 11th in 2013 out of the 15 public Michigan university’s receiving per-student appropriations.
CMU’s per-student funding that year totaled $3,289. Wayne State had the highest funding per student rate at $7,871 and GVSU had the lowest at $2,489 per student.
Recent higher-education cuts across the board have also affected per-student funding dollars.
Toby Roth, director of federal programs in the Government Relations office, said the 15-percent cut in higher education funding from 2011 is something that continues to affect the number of per-student appropriations – an event CMU and other schools are continuing to recover from.
“It’s not something they are willing to consider because there is no new money,” Roth said.
While those at the state level are not considering an increase in the amount of per-student funding at the moment, Roth said, legislators are using other means to help with the problem.
Some solutions include increasing the number of students eligible for Pell grants and modifying metrics in regard to graduation rates.
“They’re changing the formula up a little bit, but that doesn’t address the fact that each student is worth a certain dollar amount for each university,” Roth said. “It is something we’re working on, but we worked it a lot harder in the 2000s when there was more money and higher education was funded at a higher rate.”
To further increase funding numbers, Ross mentioned a number of ideas to the committee that could potentially help bring higher per-student funding numbers to CMU. These ideas included awarding universities for keeping graduates in the state and keeping the six-year graduation plan among others.
Wilbur said while the state might consider some of Ross’ ideas, they would not begin to seriously consider them in the near future.
“Do I think conversations will continue in the future? Yes I do,” Wilbur said. “Part of that is a political reality. It’s an election year and folks want to be able to conclude the budget in a timely fashion and be able to return to their districts and run for re-election and election for the first time. So I don’t think (it will change) this year.”