Testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education

March 18, 2015

Introduction

Good morning Chairpersons Schuitmaker and MacGregor,

My name is Susan Martin, President of Eastern Michigan University. Thank you for inviting me. 

Overview

Eastern Michigan University was established 166 years ago, in 1849, as the Michigan State Normal School, a teacher-training school. Our mission now is to enrich lives in a supportive, intellectually dynamic and diverse community, in which our dedicated faculty balance teaching and research to prepare students with relevant skills and real world awareness.

We are an institution of opportunity, where students learn in and beyond the classroom to benefit the local and global communities. Eastern is committed to an affordable, excellent education for Michigan citizens, and we offer a wide array of degree programs to 23,000 students. More than 200 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health and Human Services, Technology, and the Graduate School.

Eastern Michigan students enjoy exceptional access to faculty, small classes, and opportunities for research and community engagement in a diverse campus community.

Growth and Community Engagement

This past August, EMU enrolled its third largest freshman class over the past decade. The enrollment figures represent an increase of approximately 25 percent from four years ago. Our new students have an average ACT of 22.25 and an average high school GPA of 3.27, representing a continued improvement in the academic profile of our entering classes.

The freshman class included nearly 500 students who enrolled in our Honors College, which has nearly doubled in size since 2011. The Honors College features a rigorous curriculum and also presents numerous research opportunities for students, with our faculty serving as mentors. Eastern’s 35th annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, to be held March 27, will have 488 students presenting their research and scholarly work supported by 187 faculty mentors. The event, a highlight of the academic year, underscores the strong connection between faculty and students at Eastern.

Eastern seeks to align its academic programs with high-demand occupations and growth areas in our state. For example, the College of Health and Human Services is our fastest growing college, with more than 4,600 students and features the new Physician Assistant Program, launched in May 2014. Eastern has also expanded training in a variety of health and human services, such as health administration, occupational therapy, orthotics and prosthetics, and nursing. Recently, the University introduced a new undergraduate degree in public health with two curriculums: health administration or community health. Both options provide a solid foundation for students seeking advancement in public health fields.

As Eastern continues to grow academically, we remain committed to serving the local community to solve real-world problems. The University currently has 14 research institutes and centers that focus on community building and civic engagement. The University’s Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Communities (ISCFC) diligently explores present-day challenges that many families experience and develops strategies to solve them. These strategies improve households and the community through the application of scholarly research and practical expertise, innovative projects and leadership in collaborative problem-solving efforts. Examples of some of these programs are Bright Futures, Hamilton Crossing and Upward Bound.

Bright Futures seeks to help middle and high school students improve academic achievement, develop self-efficacy, and fuel their passion for learning and the arts in preparing them to transition to the next level of education. The program manages 20 after-school programs and provides services to over 1,500 students and families each year. It provides students with homework help, tutoring and mentoring. Technology is also integrated throughout the Bright Futures program and provides students with hands-on experience with multiple digital components, so crucial in today’s work world.

Another distinct program that highlights Eastern’s level of community engagement is our Hamilton Crossing Family Empowerment Program. This program works with 70 families in the Hamilton Crossing housing complex in Ypsilanti to build economic self-sufficiency, increase educational levels and improve health and wellness. The program has assisted residents in gaining employment, accessing higher education and creating a safer living environment. Eastern Michigan University has played a key role by providing leadership, social work staff and interns who participate in the program. This has resulted in a range of services for young families, including GED tutoring, financial literacy workshops, computer literacy training, and the expansion of an existing summer program to include academic subjects such as literacy, math and science.

Upward Bound is a pre-college academic program designed to provide students with the academic skills enhancement and motivation necessary to obtain a college degree. This program provides participants with a special support system in the areas of college and career planning. Further, it also provides social and cultural enrichment for students who have an interest in a college education and possess the motivation to learn and grow.

Due to our broad community engagement efforts, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recognized Eastern Michigan for its deep level of community engagement, designating EMU as one of America’s colleges or universities that excel at interacting with their surrounding communities. Of the more than 4,500 public and private four- and two-year degree-granting colleges and universities in the U.S., only 361 institutions have earned this distinction.

Educational Funding

I am pleased with the higher education budget presented by Governor Snyder.  The budget recommends an additional two percent, or $28 million, for state university operations (an increase of $1.4 million for Eastern). In terms of performance metrics, the University fared well in terms of total degrees granted, scoring a three in that category. Eastern also rated highly in its percentage of students with Pell Grants (2) and in reducing administrative costs (2), for a total of seven points in three areas.

We would appreciate flexibility with the tuition cap to allow the university to consider other ways to generate additional revenue. For example, our Rec/IM facility is in need of significant renovation and students have indicated support for a fee to fund this – yet such a fee would count against the tuition cap.

In addition, the six-year graduation rate is only based on freshmen who begin and end their academic career at the same educational institution. However, this measure hurts institutions such as Eastern that accept a large percentage of transfer students. Eastern received a 0 for its 6-year graduation rate. Yet Eastern has increased its number of degrees granted by more than 10 percent in recent years.

Conclusion

I welcome you all to visit our campus and appreciate the opportunity to testify today.

Thank you.