Continuing a 6 year pattern, the Wayne State Board of Governors unanimously approved a tuition increase at their meeting on June 23. The tuition increase is part of the general fund operating budget which was approved for the fiscal year of 2018 and will be 3.75 percent higher for all undergraduate students.
“In recent years, we have worked hard to identify new efficiencies and ways to streamline our operations to try and avoid or minimize tuition increases,” President Wilson said while justifying the decision. “This is critical to ensuring we continue to offer a top-notch education at a good value in one of the most exciting and resurgent cities in the nation.”
BOG chair Mark Gaffney voted for the raise in tuition in response to the lack of state support, he said. Funding for Wayne State has not increased since 2011, according to a BOG press release.
“I don’t think we were left with a choice this year,” Gaffney said. “We’re being forced to raise tuition to keep the budget balanced [and] I do think we’re doing our part to help as many of the students with this tuition.”
Gaffney said his decision was also based on the fact that more than 13 percent of WSU students have their tuition and fees fully covered by financial aid and about 30 percent of the aggregate tuition is funded by WSU.
Dana Thompson, another BOG chair, said her decision to vote for the raise in tuition was difficult for her because, “Of course we want to keep our tuition affordable for our students and keep [WSU] a place of access for students. [However] we have to be able to support programs that we have for students and to maintain the university’s quality.”
Thompson said she ultimately decided to vote in favor of the tuition increase because, “We’ve been able to increase the financial aid equal to the amount that we’re increasing our tuition so that we are offsetting the costs of the raise in tuition and also because we are increasing our support for public safety and because we are increasing the amount of money that’s going into our CAPS program.”
The tuition increase brings WSU’s institutionally funded financial aid to $74.2 million, which is an increase of more than 150 percent since 2007, according to the BOG press release.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, the hike in tuition was met with criticism from Minister Malik Shabazz, the leader of the New Marcus Garvey Movement/Black Panther Nation, who mentioned University of Michigan’s Go Blue Guarantee which gives free tuition to all in-state families who make less than $65,000 a year.
“Can we not look at what the University of Michigan is doing as an example?” Shabazz said.
Shabazz said WSU needs to become more accessible to inner-city kids so that Detroit as a whole can benefit and prosper.
“The more people we bring in to this institution, the more Detroiters, the more poor, the more black, the more Chicano and what not, the lower crime will become and then we’ll all be able to live with some sense of peace,” Shabazz said. “The best crime fighter is not Detroit Police Department, it’s not the crime stoppers, it’s not even our organization, it’s a career or a good job with a living wage with benefits and dignity.”
BOG member Sandra O’Brien responded by mentioning the recent Wayne Access Award that launched in December 2016 and, “provides additional financial assistance to the most needy students,” according to the BOG press release.
Shabazz then criticized WSU’s recruitment and said the BOG needs to do a better job in making WSU appealing to students from all walks of life.
“Somehow the message isn’t reaching the masses,” he said.
The 2018 fiscal year budget also included a discount of 25 percent for parking passes starting fall 2017, which is expected to help with attendance and greater presence on campus, according to the BOG press release.
The renaming of the School of Library and Information Science to the School of Information Sciences, the relocation of the Campus Health Center after the demolition of Helen L. DeRoy Apartments in summer 2019 and the establishment of a graduate certificate program in Cyber-Physical Systems were also approved during this meeting.
The next BOG meeting is Sept. 15.