“The board’s decision followed months of intensive discussion and careful reviews of the university’s budget needs. We feel the increase is necessary to maintain the excellence of Wayne State University, but we also resolved to keep the increase below the state’s restraint cap.”
President M. Roy Wilson at the Board of Governors meeting on June 24. Photo by Kaitlin Fazio

The Wayne State Board of Governors approved a measure at the June 24 meeting that would increase tuition costs by an average of 4.1 percent, according to the university’s news release.

The measure states that lower-division students, freshmen and sophomores, will see increases of 3.8 percent, or $13.19 per credit hour, while upper-division students, juniors and seniors, will see increases of 4.5 percent, or $18.42 per credit hour.

The average amount is nine percentage points greater than last year’s 3.2-percent increase and is just below the state’s cap for tuition increases.

Administering increases beyond the cap, like Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University did last year, means that those schools will forgo their state performance funding. 

In a statement that supported the increases, President M. Roy Wilson said the funding from the state “remains woefully inadequate” and that “among all of the state’s 15 public universities, Wayne State has received the lowest percentage of increases in state appropriations over the last five years.”

Rob Kohrman, associate vice president for the Office of Budget, Planning, and Analysis, echoed President Wilson’s remarks that the current system of performance metrics are producing low state funding.

At the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, Kohrman spoke to the board about the university’s plans to increase tuition and financial aid and the impact of state appropriations over the last several years.

Requirements for higher education funding in the state of Michigan are “based on performance indicators such as course completion, time to degree, transfer rates, or the number of degrees awarded,”  according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Kohrman said this system puts WSU and other urban research schools at a disadvantage because these metrics typically do not include graduate students.

Additionally, he said WSU receives the lowest percentage of funding even though the school usually scores about average in these metrics.  

Kohrman said he has also seen a change in the amount of appropriations the state puts towards higher education in the last decade. In 2000, Kohrman said, the state paid for about two-thirds of higher education costs while today the state only picks up about one-third of the costs.

In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder cut higher education funding by 15 percent. Although Snyder introduced plans for restorative funding in February, Kohrman said that WSU is still under its pre-2011 levels by around $16 million.

“Financial aid, though, has been the fastest growing expenditure in the last several years,” Kohrman said.

At the meeting, the Board of Governors also approved a 9.1 percent increase to financial aid, bringing WSU’s total financial aid dispersal to $342 million, according to Kohrman.

As members of the Board of Governors took turns expressing their opinions on the tuition increases and budget approval, many expressed that their votes to increase tuition were to preserve WSU programs in the face of financial burden.

“It’s always difficult to raise tuition knowing that our students will feel the effects of the increase,” said Board of Governors Chair Gary Pollard in the news release.

“The board’s decision followed months of intensive discussion and careful reviews of the university’s budget needs. We feel the increase is necessary to maintain the excellence of Wayne State University, but we also resolved to keep the increase below the state’s restraint cap.”

Marilyn Kelly, board member and the Distinguished Jurist in Residence at the Wayne State University Law School, said she hopes in future years that she can vote not to raise tuition at all or certainly not to raise it to the state cap.

Student Senate President Anthony Eid spoke about the tuition increases and said that the Student Senate did support the measure “mainly due to the mainstay of the spring and summer tuition discount.” 

Students that complete 24 credits between the fall and winter semesters with a GPA of 2.5 or higher can receive a 30 percent discount on spring and summer classes, according to Wayne State’s tuition and fee information.

“The Student Senate feels like it is the university's duty and job to find revenue besides raising tuition,” Eid said, adding that consistently raising tuition is “unaccessible, unsustainable and greatly hinders student success.” 

He also said the university should put pipelines in place to teach students how to communicate discontent with Lansing, and that the Student Senate will be organizing  lobbying efforts around November.

The Senate will be teaming up with Victor Green and Greg Bird from Wayne State’s Division of Government and Community Affairs to organize charter buses for the event. 

“Students have the power to get this changed by lobbying in Lansing,” Eid said. “More students should attend these meetings so that the board can look at the faces of those they are making decisions for.”

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