by President Susan Martin, Published March 28, 2011
Dear Students, Faculty and Staff,
In the month since Governor Snyder introduced his proposed 2011-2012 state budget, we have developed a better understanding of the scope of the challenges ahead. Whether the legislature significantly modifies the budget proposal remains to be seen, but given the magnitude of Michigan's budget deficit, it is clear that major restructuring is upon us.
This message is part of our ongoing communications with students, faculty and staff to update you on the budget process as we plan for the 2012 fiscal year starting in July. At the March 17 budget forum (see video), CFO John Lumm and I provided details of the guiding principles and the approach we will follow that will be the foundation for the difficult discussions and difficult decisions that lie ahead for Eastern.
In my March 16 testimony to the House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on Higher Education, I implored legislators to not cut public university funding by such a large amount and to recognize the desperate need of our students for continued support to enable them to earn a college degree and not give up hope on a pathway to success. For Eastern, the proposed cut amounts to a 19.3 percent reduction, and when factoring in the "tuition restraint" reimbursement is a 15 percent reduction, or $11.4 million. I explained that the cuts send a very harsh message and represent a disinvestment in a crown jewel asset of the State of Michigan. You can read the testimony here:
Our efforts in Lansing continue, and we are supported in this effort by Michigan's other universities and champions of higher education in the state. However, it is clear that given the scope of Michigan's budget challenge, whatever the final outcome, significant cuts are in our future, and we must prepare and plan accordingly. Addressing an $11.4 million reduction in state funding, combined with the general fund budget increase for 2012 of roughly 2-3 percent due to scheduled salary increases and higher health care and operating costs, will require serious action. The only significant revenue-generating opportunities to address this gap are tuition and fees, room and board rates, as well as overall enrollment (more students = more revenue). Vacating Pray-Harrold this year proved we have the capacity to grow. While important, these revenue opportunities only serve as modest answers to the budget shortfall.
As a result of the proposed state cut, and as indicated in the previous messages, we are taking a comprehensive look at spending across the University and will be developing a series of cost-saving initiatives. Given the significant amount of the projected state cut, these cost savings will have to be extensive. We understand this will be difficult, but it is a challenge we must confront and manage in order to maintain the sound and stable financial footing we have established over the last three years.
Many have asked whether the administration is included in the budget review. I can assure you that it is. In order to be successful, this process must be comprehensive. Ideas and suggestions for budget savings must be obtained from every corner of the campus -- we are in this together. We are looking at actions the leadership team can take first to show leadership and create confidence in this process. We also appreciate and value the efforts of the Faculty Senate and the University Budget Council to review our budget issues and assist in the development of strategies and recommendations.
As we proceed, it is important we do so in a way that maintains the positive momentum and pride in Eastern that we, together, have generated over the last three years. We must not lose sight of our many accomplishments. We have had two consecutive years of enrollment growth, with this upcoming fall class looking very strong as we seek a third year of increases. Our emphasis on student success is showing results with significant improvements in retention and graduation rates. We have increased financial aid significantly. We have added new faculty. Our facilities and grounds have never been better, with the new Science Complex, renovation of Pray-Harrold and the countless other enhancements that have taken place.
Eastern is vibrant with growth and success, and the image of Eastern across the state and here in Washtenaw County shines bright. This is why it is so important that we conduct this process with civility and mutual respect, with openness and opportunities for two-way dialogue. With your help we will create an even stronger Eastern Michigan University that will benefit Michigan and our students and families for decades to come. This process is difficult and will cause some pain, but I know together we can lift Eastern up to shine bright as a beacon to Michigan citizens who want a college education as a pathway to a job, supporting a family and a life in our great State of Michigan.
Thank you, and please feel free to contact me at email@example.com.