University officials say budget shortfalls 'should not' affect pending tuition increase
Students can expect a "modest" tuition increase for the 2017-18 academic year, according to Central Michigan University officials.
While the university manages a $10.6 million budget deficit — which grew from $9 million earlier this year — officials have no immediate plans to use tuition to make up their losses.
"I have not had any conversation with the president where we talked about attempting to balance the budget with a tuition increase," said Barrie Wilkes, vice president of Finance and Administrative Services. "That's not the plan. We will balance the budget the way we traditionally do, and that's by making reductions and being more efficient than we can be."
Wilkes discussed tuition and budget issues Thursday in a session following CMU's final Board of Trustees meeting for 2016. He said students should not expect any pending increase to be unreasonable, or beyond the scope of previous increases.
"We have some of the lowest cumulative tuition increases in the state," Wilkes said. "It is my expectation that we continue that trend for another year," Wilkes said.
Trustees, Wilkes and University President George Ross plan to begin discussions on budget cuts in January. They made no mention of tuition, nor the budget shortfall, at Thursday's meeting. They did, however, address both issues in a trustee finance subcommittee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
Wilkes said CMU’s Service Centers — which make up non-academic colleges, recruitment centers and Global Campus — are experiencing a $6.5 million shortfall. Academic colleges are $4.2 million in the hole.
Wilkes said the budget deficit was increased when his office finalized their accounting. The deficit was the result of a decrease in student credit hours — the number of credits students pay for in a given semester.
The Finance and Administrative Services office won’t be making cuts across the board, but are protecting the university’s Advancement and Admissions offices, Wilkes added.
Trustee Tricia Keith reported that her committee discussed affordability and tuition concerns, as well. Even with current budget woes, the university received an upgraded credit rating from the Standards & Poor's financial services company.
S&P, as it's more commonly known, evaluates companies' credit ratings based on a letter scale. CMU was upgraded to an A+ Positive rating. That's up from an A+ Standard rating last year. A perfect credit rating is AAA, and Wilkes hopes to boost CMU to a AA rating in the coming years.
Trustees approve deferred maintenance budget, update capital projects
Despite overall budget losses, trustees voted in favor of a $5.7 million deferred maintenance budget for fiscal year 2017.
Deferred maintenance dollars cover small-scale renovations projects. Deferred maintenance dollars do not pay for major renovations or capital projects. CMU's maintenance budget has traditionally remained stable around $5 million dollars. It increased once in the past decade to $7 million out of necessity, Wilkes said Wednesday.
At present, there are $200 million worth of projects on the deferred maintenance list. None of these maintenance issues represent a threat to safety on campus, Wilkes said.