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Davies urges legislators to reconsider higher education funding


President Robert Davies addresses the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges March 7. (Courtesy Photo | University Communications)

Central Michigan University President Robert Davies spoke to the Michigan House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges March 7, urging lawmakers to find a way to change the funding method for Michigan higher education.

Davies noted his appreciation for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recommended budget increase of 3 percent for higher education, but asked the subcommittee to find a higher education funding formula that supports all Michigan public universities equally.

"The formula should focus on the ability of universities to move Michigan forward and be based on academic quality, rigor and results," he said in his address.

Less than 17 percent of CMU's operating budget comes from state funding, Davies said. State investment to CMU has fallen from over 80 percent to below 20 percent in the past two decades, he said.

CMU receives $4,227 per student, the sixth lowest in the state. Per-student funding at Michigan’s public universities ranges from $2,957 to nearly $9,000, he said.

Davies said that CMU is part of Michigan's economic backbone. He cited a recent report which showed that the university is responsible for creating nearly 12,000 jobs and generating more than $1.2 billion each year in economic impact for Michigan. 

While Michigan was ranked 47th in the nation for economic competitiveness in 2002 by a Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the state now sits at 20th, he said.

"We are proud of the role Central is playing in this great economic comeback," he said. "To continue this climb, Michigan relies on institutions like CMU to prepare students for high-demand careers in fields such as engineering, accounting, information technology, education and health care."

Davies highlighted several recent successes of the university, including the accomplishments of College of Medicine. He said the college was opened in response to health professional shortages in 51 Michigan counties. College of Medicine students have offered free health care services to Isabella County residents through mobile health clinics, and are working with elderly residents in three local counties. 

He also said state legislature has helped fund the Center for Integrated Health Studies, which is currently being constructed and will advance interdisciplinary learning.

Davies highlighted accomplishments by CMU faculty and students in Great Lakes protection, who are leading a second $10 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to monitor and assess Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

He said that many families want a college education for their children, but cannot afford the growing investment of a four-year degree. Through partnership with the state, universities can keep education within reach for Michigan families, he said.

CMU is doing its best to keep costs low, Davies said. CMU has had the lowest cumulative tuition increase over the past nine years out of Michigan's 15 public institutions. The total cost for a four-year degree from CMU is 10th out of the 15 public universities, he said.

"I am proud of the role Central Michigan University plays in our state, and I thank you for inviting me to share our story with you," he said. "I look forward to working with you to invest in the residents of Michigan and the future of our economy."