by Geoff Larcom, Published February 07, 2012
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Vice President Joe Biden have offered strong praise to Eastern Michigan University for its nation-leading efforts at holding down tuition.
Their remarks came during a nationwide conference call with student reporters from college newspapers, in which the vice president and secretary discussed college access and affordability.
"I want to commend the leadership of Eastern Michigan University for keeping costs down and putting students first, and fortunately, I hear stories like that all over the country," Duncan said referring to EMU's 0-0-0 initiative and its 2011-12 academic year 3.65 tuition increase. "If universities are doing creative things [to keep costs down], we want to not just recognize it, but incentivize it."
During the conference call, which took place on Feb. 2, Biden and Duncan discussed how valuable it is for the country to invest in education, noting that the only way The United States will maintain its role as a world leader is if young Americans receive a quality education.
Katrease Stafford, a senior at EMU who is editor of its student-run newspaper, The Eastern Echo, prompted the discussion of Eastern with her question during the Q&A period of the conference call.
"My university, Eastern Michigan University, held tuition costs down for the 2010-11 academic year by not raising tuition and fees at all in what was called a 0-0-0 initiative," Stafford noted to Biden and Duncan. "Even last year, after receiving state appropriation cuts from Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, the university only raised tuition 3.65 percent, which was lower than most public institutions in the state.
"Can you comment and further explain what is being done to recognize or perhaps give incentive to institutions like Eastern Michigan University, who try to put students first but are facing deficits because of cuts?"
For universities such as EMU that try to make college affordable, Biden said they might qualify for the White House's incentive plan called the "Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion," The Echo reported in its story on the call.
Through this "fair formula plan," the administration has said $1 billion would be allocated to institutions that keep costs low. President Barack Obama outlined this plan during an address at the University of Michigan on Jan. 27. EMU President Susan Martin and Student Body President Jelani McGadney were special guests at Obama's talk.
"When 62 percent of all jobs in the near future will require a degree past high school, it doesn't make sense to price kids out of education," The Echo quoted Biden as saying on the conference call. "Neither of us - (the President) or myself - would be in the positions we are in now were it not for the fact that we got a good education and someone helped us do it."
Tuition costs have increased almost 300 percent in the past 20 years, Biden said.
For the past three years, during Martin's tenure as EMU president, the University has led the state of Michigan in tuition restraint.
During that time, Eastern's overall increase in tuition has averaged just 2.5 percent, the lowest increase in the state, and students are paying only $20 more per credit hour than 3 years ago.
EMU students now pay the third lowest annual tuition among the state's 15 public universities, yet EMU has continued to invest in crucial academic facilities such as the recently completed renovation of the Pray-Harrold building, EMU's largest and busiest classroom facility.