Ross says President Obama's plea for universities to control tuition hikes does not affect CMU

University President George Ross is confident Central Michigan University will not be impacted by certain topics discussed by President Barack Obama during his speech at the University of Michigan last Friday.

President Obama announced a plan to force public universities to either “contain tuition or face losing federal dollars,” which left university heads questioning the president’s understanding of university financing.

According to an April 2011 release from the State Higher Education Executive Officers, Michigan is already in the bottom 10 of all states for higher education support. The national average for per-student taxpayer support is $6,451, while Michigan’s average is only $4,822 per student.

Outside Tuesday's Academic Senate meeting, Ross said he does not see it affecting CMU students.

“For us at CMU, with our philosophy, I don’t think it would hurt our students or the university at all,” he said. “We award based on merit, and I feel comfortable with where we are as a university.”

Political science faculty member Lawrence Sych said President Obama’s plan isn’t unlike attempts of the state in the past.

“This sounds a lot like what states have tried to do in the past with mixed success,” he said. “Over the past several years, Michigan has been trimming back state support for universities, and now with some surpluses at the state level, they’re reconsidering that. It’s the lack of state support that motivates universities to increase tuition.”

President Obama’s plan aims to provide educational opportunities for all students, but Sych said it seems to have potential to harm students.

“It seems like it would be difficult to not hurt the students. If you cut federal support going to public universities, those would be hurting the very students that you’re seeking to help,” Sych said. “One of the major motives for increasing tuition is the lack of state support. If we don’t raise tuition, we’re losing that revenue. At the same time, the federal government says if you raise tuition, we’ll cut federal support. It’s really a lose-lose situation.”

Ross said CMU has been working toward cost efficiency since the beginning of the decade, introducing the CMU Promise, a price-fixed tuition plan, in the fall of 2005. The promise was eliminated in the summer of 2008.

“We’ve cut costs in basic things such as utilities to help keep tuition low,” Ross said. “What sets CMU apart is that we started this in 2002, not just when the economy started to suffer. It’s remained consistent.”

Sych said he doesn’t think Obama’s plan will be put in use anytime soon.

“Obama is close to the end of his term, so I doubt this plan would happen this soon," he said. "It may just be a nice thing to say to gain some political support going into the next election.”


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