Ross discusses budget deficit, first-generation students in committee address
Layoffs are likely and the university is in the midst of course-correcting for its $14 million budget deficit, said Central Michigan University President George Ross.
Ross read a testimony to the Michigan House Appropriations Committees on Thursday in Lansing. A full transcript of the speech can be found here.
Toward the end of his testimony, Ross discussed the $14 million budget shortfall announced at the Board of Trustees formal meeting Feb. 16. Ross said he was pleased with Gov. Rick Snyder's budget recommendation this spring to include higher education funding, but said "funding is not keeping up with the cost of delivering the kind of education our students need and employers demand."
Ross said layoffs are likely and stressed how it affects students.
"If CMU were to live on state appropriations alone, we’d close our doors after 62 days," Ross said. "The impact on students and families, who bear the rest of the burden, is obvious."
Ross said this fall, CMU will have increased its financial aid by $15 million over the past four years. He added CMU's cumulative tuition increase has been the lowest in the state the last seven years. CMU is 30 percent below where state-mandated tuition caps would have allowed, and stressed CMU's commitment to students, their families and the state of Michigan.
"Even with our current budget situation, however, I and the CMU Board of Trustees are unified in continuing to come in below the recommended cap," Ross said. "We believe that we cannot fix the higher education funding dilemma on the backs of students and their families."'
Ross told the committee to hold all of Michigan's public universities accountable when it comes to Michigan's performance metrics.
CMU has the sixth-lowest per-student state funding as CMU students receive $3,900, Ross said. He added that out of 220,000 alumni are "putting their stamp on the world" with 80 percent currently in Michigan.
"I urge you to find a way to improve the funding formula, so your appropriations follow the student," Ross said. "Because I believe that students who attend Central Michigan University have just as much promise, and will do just as much — or more — for our state, as those who attend other universities."
Ross also discussed first generation students. He said he is one of 12 siblings to graduate from high school and go on to college. He said 22 percent of the fall 2016 entering class are first generation students, which equals nearly 800 freshmen.
Leadership Safari, staff in the Office of Student Success and in Career Services and staff and student mentors provide support for first generation students, Ross said. He referred back to CMED when he said 20 percent of the school's first graduating class in two months are first-generation college graduates.
Ross opened his testimony by saying CMU takes it role seriously in "contributing to Michigan's remarkable comeback."
"This commitment is why we focus our attention on graduating students with the expertise, as well as the leadership skills and values, that Michigan’s communities and businesses need," he said. "It is why, as we plan for the future, we focus on degrees that fill vital gaps in our state."
Ross touched on CMU's 125-year anniversary, which will take place in September. He also discussed the growth of the College of Medicine, which was established in 2013, and transfer students. There were 1,400 new transfer students in fall 2016 on the Mount Pleasant campus, online or at 14 satellite locations across Michigan.
CMU has 12 reverse transfer agreements, Ross said, which allow for students at community college to earn credit at CMU and then return to pursue their associate's degrees. He said 15 percent of CMU's transfer students have reverse transfer agreements, compared to 9 percent throughout the state. CMU also has 25 signed articulation agreements, most of which allow community college students to pursue a specific academic program at CMU through direct admissions.