Budget approved by Board of Trustees cuts spending, increases tuition

Emmy Montgomery addresses the Board of Trustees about changes to the Institute for Transformative Dialogue during their June 29, 2023 meeting.

“We see you and we hear you,” said Isaiah Oliver, chair of the CMU Board of Trustees. 

He was responding to concerns from Emmy Montgomery and Morgan Barbarett about the dissolution of a funding partnership for the Institute for Transformative Dialogue -- one of many funding changes coming to the university in the coming year. 

The changes to ITD were established earlier this summer and were not part of the June 29 Board of Trustees' budget discussion; but during the session, the board solidified several other proposals. 

During the session, the board heard from President Bob Davies and updates from each committee, but the main event was the approval of several proposals presented by the Finance and Facilities Committee, cementing the financial plan for the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

Tuition increases

The first aspect of the budget approved by the board was an increase to the per-credit-hour tuition paid by graduate and undergraduate students. 

The board's reasoning for increasing costs was to continue providing a high value education as inflation increases prices everywhere, Davies said. 

While at it's lowest in over a year, inflation in the U.S. is still at 4%, according to the May 2023 Consumer Price Index and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Trustee Edward Plawecki is the chair of the finance and facilities committee. He said that his team spent more hours reviewing and analyzing this plan than he's experienced in the last four years in his position. 

"We don't take any of this decision making lightly," Plawecki said. "At the end of the day, a budget is a plan to achieve priorities."

Hourly rates are determined, at the undergraduate level, by the number of credit hours a student has completed. 

The rate for lower-level students, those who have completed fewer than 56 credits, is now $458, an increase of $18 since the last fiscal year. 

The rate for upper-level students increased as well, by $24 to reach $498 per credit hour. 

Similarly, graduate students can expect a tuition rate increase based on the type of degree they’re pursuing. 

Master’s and specialist degrees are increasing by $32 to a total of $758 per credit hour; and a $30 increase for doctoral students puts their credit hour rate at $858. 

All of these rates were presented by Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services and Chief Financial Officer Mary Hill. The board voted almost unanimously, with one abstention, to approve this proposal.

Before this hike in tuition rates, CMU was well below average for public universities in the state in both lower and upper-level tuition rates. 

The board agreed not to raise rates for the College of Medicine in the year 2023-24, but Michigan residents will see a 4.76% increase in 2024-25- an even 5% for out-of-state residents.

When asked what he would say to students who struggle with the tuition increase, Davies said he would show a lot of compassion. 

“I understand that these are tough times,” Davies said. “But we put things in play to help them. A lot of individuals are on scholarships, and as part of our scholarships, as tuition goes up so do the scholarships.

“Costs have gone up everywhere and we have to manage the budget and provide services we possibly can and meet the needs of students in the most efficient way we can,” Davies continued. 

Room and board

The trustees also unanimously approved an increase in room and board costs. 

Here’s how it breaks down for dorm living: 

Standard room rates 

  • $3,031 per semester
  • $250 increase from last year

Premium 1 (Carey Residence Hall)

  • $3,485 per semester
  • $288 increase from last year

Premium 2 (Campbell, Celani, Fabiano, Kesseler and Kulhavi residence halls)

  • $3,940 per semester
  • $325 increase from last year

All three meal plan options have also become more expensive, by an average of $204 each. 

  • All access 450: now $3,058
  • Central 16 (includes $300 flex): now $2,896
  • Central 12 (includes $400 flex): now $2,614

Operating budget 2023-24

The board also put their stamp of approval on the operating budget for the 2023-24 fiscal year. 

After restructuring how some expenditures fit into areas of the budget -- namely incorporating Information Technology into the general fund -- the total reduction in the spending plan from last year to this year is $272,361. The operating budget balances out at almost $434.5 million for 2023-24. 

This is after being allocated over $91 million by the state, according to the State of Michigan education budget. That financial plan is part of the ‘Make it in Michigan’ budget passed on Wednesday, June 28. 

According to a press release from the governor’s office, part of the education budget’s funding (divided among Michigan’s 15 public universities) includes the following: 

  • A 5% ongoing increase for university and community college operations;
  • $112 million in Infrastructure, Technology, Equipment Maintenance, and Safety (ITEMS) funding;
  • A $50 million additional investment for the ongoing costs of the Michigan Achievement Scholarship; and
  • $37.8 million for the College Success Fund and wraparound services to improve retention and completion rates.

Here’s how the revenues and expenditures break down for this year’s budget at CMU:

Charts representing the revenues and expenses for the university, presented to the CMU Board of Trustees during its meeting June 29, 2023. Graphic courtesy of Central Michigan University. 

“The budget that was approved offers comfort to the board that the resources are being allocated in a way that allows the administration to operationalize our mission and vision, and that is really important to the board,” Chair Oliver said. 

It’s not all spending cuts and tuition hikes, however. According to Davies, among nine different union contracts, some faculty can expect a 2.125% raise. 

“What we’re trying very, very hard to do is communicate the importance of the faculty, the jobs that they do are absolutely amazing,” Davies said. “What they bring to Central Michigan University is important. I would also say the same thing about our staff. We’re trying to be very flexible with providing them options.” 

That may be little consolation to graduate student Montgomery. She said the Institute for Transformative Dialogue started as a series of classes on campus that allowed students to engage in meaningful conversations about current social and political topics, and to learn how to conduct those conversations. 

After success there, it became a separate program and partnered with the Division of Student Affairs for funding, to engage more students on campus. 

Another student, Morgan Barbrett, described the institute as a safe place for a variety of minority groups. But as part of the budget cuts, it was dissolved with little-to-no warning, she said. Now she’s concerned about losing that safe space on campus. 

Both Barbrett and Montgomery said dissolving the institute and leaving everything to the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion left them with worries about the state of inclusion and safety on campus. 

“We would like to see the value of being an anti-racist campus being prioritized on the budget,” Barbrett said.