LETTER: President Ross responds to editorial about future of CMU
As Central Michigan University prepares to commemorate its 120th anniversary, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the past, review the growth and transformation happening at present, and have the foresight to enact steps to transport the university to its highest level in the future.
It is understandable why the editorial in the August 31 edition of CM Life would suggest that challenging economic times be addressed by focusing only on the day-to-day operations of the university. Believe me; it would be much easier to take that outlook. However, history shows us that CMU is a great university today, not by living day-to- day, but because of the visionary efforts of the 13 presidents who have preceded me. Perhaps most notable was President Charles Anspach.
Faced with World War II and a crumbling economy, President Anspach could have focused on the day-to-day operations of Central State Teachers College. Instead, he confronted the situation head-on and moved forward with initiatives that eventually would create Central Michigan University as a significant force in Michigan higher education.
He strategically increased the number of buildings on campus from seven in 1939 to 40 in 1959. He created new programs to meet the expanding interests of students and fill the needs of employers and society. He purchased more land for future growth and applied for a radio station license, which became the foundation for what has become CMU Public Broadcasting.
President Anspach’s measures resulted in an increase in student attendance from 2,284 to 7,247 and provided the foundation that has enabled us to educate more than 200,000 alumni with a current student enrollment of approximately 28,000.
Since President Anspach’s tenure, his successors have continued to advocate change. CMU was a pioneer in offering off-campus programs, which has blossomed into more than 50 locations across the United States and in Canada and Mexico.
To better recognize the growth in academic disciplines, the College of Arts and Sciences was split to create the College of Communication and Fine Arts, College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the College of Science and Technology.
The College of Health Professions was created and academic programs like physical therapy, physician assistant and health care administration were added.
These innovative concepts have progressed and made our university robust, despite the opposition of a few naysayers.
The CM Life editorial cites the College of Medicine and the proposed biosciences building as examples of wasteful spending.
A growing physician shortage and a critical need for access to quality health care, economic development, and medical research are the driving factors behind the need for a College of Medicine. It also allows the university to build on its concentration in its science and nationally recognized health professions programs while strengthening our academic core.
The proposed biosciences building, along with needed renovations and upgrades to existing academic facilities, will allow us to create and expand high demand and relevant programs while enhancing the learning and teaching environment for our students and faculty.
We understand that many of our students and families are facing financial challenges.
The Board of Trustees increased this year’s tuition by 3.47 percent, the lowest tuition increase in the state, preceded by a modest increase the previous year. Using more than 90 percent of this year’s revenue generated from the tuition increase, we are providing additional funding for need-based financial aid for our students and hiring additional tenure-track faculty. More than 2,100 students, or 10 percent, continue to pay the same tuition as they have for the past several years, thanks to The CMU Promise.
When I assumed the presidency, we enacted $5.2 million in operational efficiencies in preparation for an anticipated double-digit cut in state funding. State appropriations were cut by $12 million this year. Assessments of every CMU operation, along with an academic prioritization process, have taken place to continue to identify further efficiencies. In addition, we enacted a budget that cuts $9 million this year and another $3 million next year. We will continue to be good stewards of the tuition and protect our students’ academic interests.
Today our faculty, staff, and students benefit from the bold initiatives of President Anspach and previous administrations. In keeping with CMU’s long-established and successful history of strategic investments and a broad-minded vision, students enrolled now and in the future will benefit greatly from the progressive and bold actions that are today’s building blocks, focused on the future and centered on student success. And, in the words of CM Life writers from the history of CM Life, “ …history makes the future, and we see the future of CMU as a bright one.”
University President George E. Ross