May 16, 2003
Contact: Ward Mullens

Kirkpatrick asks Senate Subcommittee to support across-the-board cuts

YPSILANTI - Differential cuts for state universities make little sense and are poor public policy, Eastern Michigan University President Samuel A. Kirkpatrick told legislators today in Ann Arbor.

Speaking before the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations, Kirkpatrick echoed the majority of state university presidents in urging the Senate to support Governor Granholm’s recommendation for a 6.74 percent across-the-board reduction.

Kirkpatrick told the committee that House Bill 4396 arbitrarily awards financial relief to six institutions, purportedly based on enrollment growth, while ignoring enrollment growth at nine other universities, three of which were already in the “under funded category” based on their per student floor funding.

“There is simply no rational explanation for this distribution,” Kirkpatrick said. “How can one institution receive $3,629 for each of 238 new students while EMU receives no relief for 254 new students?”

Sen. Deborah Cherry, D-Burton, told Kirkpatrick she appreciated his candor and agreed that “pitting our universities against one another does little to advance the cause of higher education.”

Kirkpatrick said the current inequitable funding problems were the result of decades of financing higher education by politics not policy, exacerbated by the addition of the tier system. “The tier system is contrary to the basic principle that all Michigan students should receive equitable funding for their post-secondary education regardless of the institution they choose to attend.”

Acknowledging that a differential funding model might be appropriate for Michigan’s three research institutions (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Michigan State University and Wayne State University), Kirkpatrick said he would advocate that a single per-student allocation, similar to that used in K-12 funding, be established.

“This is a serious public policy issue that the University presidents and the legislature will need work together on once we’ve weathered the current budget storm,” he said. “Our goal today is to make sure that we don’t mortgage Michigan’s economic future but cutting higher education any further than the 6.74 percent recommended by the Governor.”

All five of the University presidents testifying before the Subcommittee today addressed the economic impact of higher education on the state.
Citing a recent study by the university Investment Commission, a broad-based independent task force of state business leaders, that found that for every dollar the state invests in higher education, universities return $26, Kirkpatrick said that for institutions like Eastern Michigan University, the return on investment is even higher. A separate economic impact study showed, “EMU’s total impact on the Michigan economy of $2.8 billion for the 2002 fiscal year reflects a return of $30 for each dollar received from the state.”

Kirkpatrick told legislators that the proposed cut would have serious consequences. “In addition to the proposed $8.7 million reduction to EMU in state appropriations, the university faces nearly $10 million in unavoidable cost increases for previously negotiated labor contracts, health care, financial aid and unfunded state mandates. One unfunded mandate, a required payment to the Michigan Public Schools Employee Retirement System, has increased more than 100 percent since 1998.”

Kirkpatrick said that the University is addressing the budget reductions through a number of strategies including: controlling expenditures and generating new revenues; seeking contract revisions and efficiencies from labor unions; consolidating services; restricting travel and overtime; freezing vacant positions; and eliminating programs and positions.”

“Our first priority will be to protect the quality of our academic product,” he said. “But there is no avoiding the fact that class sizes will increase, services will be diminished and there will be fewer employees doing more work.”

Kirkpatrick’s comments that the University was able to absorb some of this year’s cuts because it “saw the train wreck coming” and kept funds in reserve, drew a chuckle from the panel and comments from Sen. Mike Prusi, D-Ishpeming, who asked the president to please let the legislature know if sees another wreck coming.

EMU’s commitment to accessibility and affordability may be stretched, but will not be broken, during these challenging times, Kirkpatrick said. “More than half of our students, nearly 52 percent, receive more than $100 million in financial aid of some type. Since 2001, our financial aid budget has increased 68 percent. As currently projected, 16 percent of our tuition and fees for Fiscal ’04 will go directly back to students through campus-based financial aid.”

“It’s important to keep the doors to a college education open to all Michigan citizens. Shrinking state supports puts a heavy burden on our most neediest students, many of whom attend EMU.”

Eastern Michigan University is a comprehensive metropolitan university serving urban and suburban students through programs in the arts, sciences and professions. Eastern Michigan University prepares students with the intellectual tools and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be good citizens.