Trustees increase room and board rates at April meeting
Next year students can expect a 3.5 percent increase for room and board following a decision made by the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees on April 27.
Students living in residence halls will pay $9,736 for lodging starting Aug. 1. According to a chart presented at the meeting, CMU has the 10th-lowest room and board rate out of Michigan's 15 public universities. The cost of doing laundry in residence halls will now also be included in that rate beginning next year.
“(Residence Life does) a really good job of estimating the number of students we’ll have in residence halls and apartments," said Barrie Wilkes, vice president of Finance and Administration. "They analyze the local market in regards to apartments to make sure we are competitive.”
The board approved a 5 percent increase in graduate student housing. There is no increase for Northwestern and Kewadin apartments.
Tuition is usually announced at the April meeting, but budget concerns and the upcoming state appropriations estimate have delayed that discussion until June, according to a University Communications press release. The 2017-18 fiscal year operating budget and tuition rate will be discussed at the board's June 29 meeting.
College of Medicine tuition, however, was approved for the next academic year. In-state students will pay $40,070, about a 1.4 percent increase from this year. Out-of-state tuition will remain at $73,522. Provost Michael Gealt said the university will not raise the out-of-state tuition so CMU can continue to be competitive. He explained out-of-state tuition is reaching a cost that would make CMU among the most expensive medical schools nationally.
Trustees approved more than 3,100 Spring 2017 graduates. For those in the College of Medicine, it will be the school's first graduating class.
During his report, University President George Ross discussed the university's projected two-year $20 million budget deficit and claimed CMU "will have a balanced budget, and CMU will remain a strong, major, national university." Ross said despite cutting unfilled positions and eliminating another two dozen staff positions, CMU is hiring 40 faculty members this summer and fall to fill vacant positions.
“I am pleased that our leadership around campus has stepped up to make difficult choices," Ross said. "We’ve made choices to protect students, to protect (their) education.”
Some have criticized Ross and administrators for the budget shortfall.
“At the end of the day, if there’s something to criticize it’s typically the president and the administration," Ross said. "We respond to the environment and demographics. We have talked about (the budget) since last fall. We knew some extra credit hours were reducing. We started making preparations for it."
Trustee Tricia Keith said CMU has taken a proactive approach in managing the budget deficit and administrators are trying to communicate with students and staff.
“We’re cautious and conservative in our approach, but at the same point we very much support the actions that we’re taking," she said. "As (Ross) said, this is a normal course of business in adjusting to your revenues."
If CMU went through with Gov. Rick Snyder's maximum allowed tuition increase allowed, Wilkes said the shortfall would sink from $20 million to $2 million. However, the goal was not to have those dollars "stacked on the backs of students."
There has been discussion across campus about the university's $22.5 million subsidy to Athletics Department. Faculty member Mary Senter, who teaches in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work, recommended that a task force be implemented to assess the cost and benefits of intercollegiate athletics. During public comment, Senter said the NCAA is expanding while state appropriations are shrinking and fewer students are coming to CMU.
Sophomore Max-Edward Rizer addressed the board and raised concern about funding the counseling center. He described how a roommate tried to commit suicide after the person was unable to get an appointment with a counselor. Rizer asked how CMU could justify spending so much on athletics while devoting so few dollars to the counseling center.
The Counseling Center is a part of Enrollment and Student Services. According to the 2016-17 operating budget, the Counseling Center total expenses equal $860,571. Athletics’ total expenses are more than $29 million. Athletics’ total revenue is about $7 million.
Ross said CMU has increased the number of counselors on campus and stressed the importance of safety on campus. The Counseling Center’s professional counseling staff comprises 11 people, according to the Counseling Center web page.
“To equate (Rizer's story) to how we fund athletics I think is unfair," Ross said. "There’s a lot of things we fund on this campus, including a counseling center that has more than one psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist. I’ll admit I wish we had more (counselors). But to equate that to athletics I think is an unfair comparison.”
Ross added that while the athletics subsidy exceeds $22 million, about half of that comes back to the academic colleges due to student athlete scholarships. He said there have not been discussions about dropping to NCAA Division II in recent years. He said the Mid-American Conference discusses "student success" priorities before athletics.
Trustees also appointed 14 faculty and staff members to emeritus rank.
With summer renovations to Grawn Hall and plans for a Center for Integrated Health Studies on campus, Ross said the state of CMU is strong despite budget concerns.
“Overall, I think the state of the university is good," he said. "There’s been a lot of conversations about the budget. Our budget is suggested based on available revenues. This isn’t the first time we’ve made adjustments to the budget. It won’t be the last time.”