For decades Central Michigan University has been known as an affordable institution where students could receive a discounted education comparable to what is offered at bigger colleges.
Yet crippling state funding cuts and tuition hikes for next school year are pushing CMU further from that identity.
The price of an undergraduate credit hour will rise 2.94 percent this fall to $385. Global Campus credit hour costs will rise 4.6 percent to $387, making it more expensive to take classes in front of a computer screen than in front of an instructor. The medical school is raising yearly tuition by nearly $5,000 dollars.
The number of high school graduates in Michigan will continue to decline in the coming years, and the number of those students choosing less expensive education alternatives will likely rise.
Meanwhile, Lansing has done nothing to make it more worthwhile to pursue higher education in Michigan.
In 2001, CMU received about $90 million in state funding. Since then, the unemployment rate has skyrocketed and the economy has worsened. Adjusting for inflation since 2001, $90 million is worth about $93 million today. But today, CMU receives only $73 million from the state.
Students are the ones suffering. In the last decade, the cost of CMU tuition has increased by over 200 percent, according to institutional research. Those graduating from CMU average student debt of over $30,000, which is more than Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Michigan State University and the majority of our competitor schools, according to Project on Student Debt.
Students come to college to prepare themselves to find jobs. They find jobs to pay back the money they spent on school and eventually to make a decent, hopefully debt free, living.
Increasingly, the “traditional” path into adulthood seems more like a money pit.
If CMU wants to stabilize enrollment, it must alleviate the burden of cost instead of continuing to pile it on. In order to do this, CMU needs the state to offer more funding instead of taking it away.
Despite increasing tuition by almost 3.2 percent, the maximum a university can raise it while still receiving state aid, CMU has the lowest 4-year increase rate among public universities in the state. However, it receives the fifth lowest amount of state appropriations among its counterparts.
The state must help make higher education affordable for its residents, and it has been neglecting the obligation for too long.
In the last decade, more than a billion dollars has been taken out of higher education in the state. President Ross said at yesterday’s board of trustees meeting that until CMU can get leadership in Lansing to realize this is wrong, the university can do nothing.
Governor Rick Snyder recently recommended a partial restoration of state appropriations, which would increase CMU’s funding by 7.8 percent, the fifth highest in the state.
Considering the current condition of Michigan public universities, the move is mandatory. The state can no longer handle the repercussions of staying idle.
We see no better investment than one in education, our future. Failure to fix the crippled system will leave the future of CMU and colleges across the state in jeopardy.