by Geoff Larcom, Published February 24, 2014
YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University is growing, enrolling more students and graduating more as well while remaining an excellent steward of taxpayers’ dollars, President Susan Martin told Michigan lawmakers.
In her annual testimony before members of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee in Lansing, on Feb. 20, Martin noted Eastern’s growth while leading the state of Michigan in tuition restraint over the last five years.
“We provide a quality education at an affordable price and have not walked away from Michigan citizens who dream of being the first in their family to walk across the stage and earn a college degree,” Martin said.
“Eastern is entirely committed to opportunity and affordability, and that is critical to southeast Michigan, the revival of Detroit, and the greater State of Michigan. At Eastern, ordinary people come and get the first degree in their family and then lead extraordinary lives, forever changing their family for future generations in Michigan.”
Martin said that Eastern is growing despite a declining market of students. This past fall, EMU welcomed the largest freshman class in the University’s history of 2,872 freshmen and 5,210 new undergraduate students – which includes first-time freshmen, transfer students, and students pursuing a second degree – even though demographic studies show a significantly declining supply of college freshmen in our state.
Martin noted that there are more than 300,000 young people between the ages of 25-34 in southeast Michigan (eight counties including Washtenaw) that have some college but no degree.
“Eastern can fulfill that dream of a college degree and help achieve the Governor’s goal of dramatically increasing the number of Michigan residents with a college degree,” Martin said.
This year’s new class reflected an improved academic profile as well. The average GPA for incoming freshmen increased to 3.24, up from 3.18 in 2012 and 3.11 in 2011, and Eastern’s Honors College has increased by 50 percent since 2009.
Eastern is not simply enrolling more students, the University is graduating more as well, Martin told committee members. A record 2,376 students graduated from EMU last spring, an increase of more than 27 percent since 2007.
“We used to graduate approximately 5,000 students each year; now we are graduating approximately 5,500 students per year,” Martin said.
Other points President Martin touched on include:
• This past year, Eastern continued to expand academic programs that train students for the high-growth jobs demanded by Michigan employers. The University launched a new graduate program to train physician assistants, which will begin enrolling students this May. Martin noted that after health care, the second fastest growing industry in the United States is information security, and EMU’s Information Assurance (cyber security) program trains approximately 550 undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. students in computer and network security.
• EMU is improving its graduation rate, as reflected in performance points received in Governor Snyder’s proposed budget this month. Martin said Eastern continues to invest in student advising services, including increasing staffing and opening the new Francine Parker Advising Center last summer in the Student Center.
• Eastern has expanded faculty ranks in high-growth areas to ensure that students have access to the best faculty in their fields. Eastern has hired more than 150 new faculty members in the past five years.
• Martin noted that Eastern was recently recognized by the College Database as one of the top 50 colleges in the country for advancing women in STEM fields. Eastern is launching a new comprehensive, interdisciplinary, University-wide initiative to increase the number of students graduating in STEM programs. Eastern is the State of Michigan affiliate for Project Lead The Way, which trains middle- and high-school teachers to deliver an innovative STEM curriculum in schools throughout the State.
• Martin said that Eastern faces a new challenge in the coming years. She noted that while data show that Eastern’s campus is one of the safest in Michigan; like many universities it is experiencing more crime off-campus. Thus, Eastern decided to do more to protect students and employees who live nearby off-campus by adding 10 police officers devoted to extended patrols.
Martin emphasized that while investing in new programs, technology, and faculty, Eastern has remained the statewide leader in keeping college affordable for Michigan students. She noted that over the last five years, EMU’s tuition increased by only 3 percent, the smallest dollar increase among the State’s fifteen public universities.
“Our students would be paying/borrowing on average $2,800 more a year had we not restrained tuition,” she said.
EMU has also cut costs, such as eliminating 130 administrative positions over the last three years, saving more than $7 million per year in wages and benefits. Eastern received a top score this year in the state budget performance metric that measures a university’s spending on administrative overhead.
“Tuition restraint is always challenging, and Eastern has proven its ability to limit tuition increases even without a State mandate,” Martin said. “Eastern has consistently proven that we are good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
For the complete text of President Martin’s testimony, please visit http://www.emich.edu/president/communications/congress/20140220.php