Remarks to the Board of Regents
October 20, 2009
Eastern Michigan University is committed to significantly increasing our support of Michigan students and their families in this challenging economic time. Today we are seeking Board of Regents approval to offer more than $30.4 million in financial aid in 2010-2011. This represents an increase of more than $4.8 million, or 19 percent, from this year's originally approved budgeted total of more than $25.5 million in aid, and an increase of more than $1.4 million, or five percent, from this year's forecasted actual total of nearly $29 million in financial aid.
This year's financial aid total was revised upward by about $3.4 million because of our increase in enrollment. New and returning student enrollment for fall 2009 increased by 933 students over last year, a rise of more than four percent. Eastern bestowed 698 more academic achievement awards than the previous year, along with 455 more need-based awards.
In the last three years, we have increased student financial aid by almost $9 million, or 42 percent.
In recognition of the great sacrifice of our military veterans, we are requesting Board of Regents approval for our new Vet Connect Award, which provides the opportunity for veterans from anywhere in the country to attend Eastern Michigan University at resident rates. This reflects our continuing commitment to veterans, which has resulted in Eastern's recognition as one of the top "military friendly" schools by G.I. Jobs magazine.
Our ability to support additional financial aid and expanded benefits for veterans is the result of our strategic and determined efforts to control and reduce costs and increase revenue through enrollment expansion. As reported last month, fall enrollment increased 4.26 percent. Assuming winter term enrollment remains consistent, tuition and fees will be $7.2 million more than budgeted.
While some may look at the surplus as an opportunity for new funding for programs, projects, expansions, and other items, it is important that we consider the economic climate in which we operate and continue to follow the budget and spending plan established more than a year ago. Given the uncertainty of state funding in the current year, the even more problematic funding landscape in 2010-2011 with state tax revenues continuing to decline and federal stimulus dollars ending—bad could go to worse.
Despite our recent positive news, the financial community is still keeping a watchful eye on us due to our low reserves and high debt levels. While we can deservedly celebrate our successes, it is important to maintain a reasoned approach that considers the uncertainty and instability of future funding. The State of Michigan still has not enacted an appropriation for higher education for the current fiscal year. State revenue forecasts predict a significant future decline. For that reason, we will continue to be conservative, cautious and diligent as we approach all issues related to funding and budgeting.
It is with great pride and honor that we celebrate student success and academic achievement. This is at the heart of Eastern Michigan University's mission.
Nowhere is this mission better evidenced than in the Presidential Scholars being honored today. Our student scholars come from different backgrounds and different cultures. They have unique stories about how they overcame obstacles to arrive at their success. While their individual achievements are impressive, they represent an important testament to the outstanding faculty at Eastern who help inspire and guide their education and development.
The Presidential Scholars program is just one way Eastern recognizes student success and achievement. On October 2, more than 70 students from the College of Arts and Sciences were honored for academic excellence. Each student was recognized along with his or her faculty mentor.
Less than a month from now, on November 14, we will celebrate the Education First Scholars Day. It is a scholarship competition where students admitted to EMU with a 3.3 GPA or over will compete for scholarship awards. Then, on December 5 and 12, is the Presidential Scholarship competition, where students will to compete for a full ride scholarship. Qualifications are a 3.5 GPA and top-notch admissions test scores.
Other academic highlights include last weekend's "Reacting to the Past" regional conference that involved EMU faculty, staff and students, as well as scholars from 15 different universities in Michigan and from Ohio, New York, Alabama and Oregon. This role-playing event is an example of the academic innovation that inspires our students and faculty to excellence. History Professor Mark Higbee and Faculty Development Center Director Karen Busch are to be commended for this fine project, and for expanding awareness of EMU's academic achievements.
The Princeton Review has named Eastern Michigan University's College of Business one of the nation's most outstanding business schools for the sixth consecutive year. The college is one of 301 schools to be featured out of the more than 1,000 business schools around the nation.
We continue to make steady progress on strategic capital initiatives that are important to our campus. We are projected to complete steel framing on the $90 million Science Complex in mid-November, and later this winter and early spring exterior walls will be constructed. Elsewhere, we are replacing windows and becoming more energy efficient. Since July 1, we have used approximately 4.3 percent less electricity than during the same period last year and 6 percent less than two years ago. We are beginning $1.6 million in improvements to Pittman Hall while continuing renovations to the Fletcher Building for our Autism Collaborative Center and Children's Institute.
Earlier today, we broke ground for our new $3.9 million multi-purpose indoor practice facility near Rynearson Stadium. Several options and building sizes were considered for the facility, which has been discussed for many years. After obtaining additional information, including potential community interest in the facility, it was determined that a larger facility with upgraded parking and other enhancements would make it more functional and user-friendly. The budget for the project – the building cost is $3.27 million, the parking lot $437,000, and the walkway and welcome center $210,000 — was submitted to the State of Michigan Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee in July, and was approved in early September. While the facility's primary use will be for varsity athletic programs, providing an indoor training location for football, our women's soccer team, baseball, softball and men's and women's golf, it also will be utilized by our club sports and intramural programs. Additionally, due to its larger size, it can be divided into four soccer fields, three of which will be leased on an ongoing basis to the community for youth soccer and other recreational programs. This element of the project, which is greatly valued by our community neighbors, is projected to largely offset yearly maintenance and operating costs. Significantly, construction of this facility will add 100 new jobs in our community over the next four months.
Importantly, the capital improvements underway including the projects listed above are within the approved 2009-2010 capital spending budget of $81.6 million. We are on schedule and on budget while significantly enhancing our campus.
In other important developments, EMU's health professionals will soon be vaccinating students and high-risk groups with the vaccine to ward off the H1N1 flu. The effort caps a broad educational and prevention effort by campus staff, which began preparing for the virus since last April.
Looking to build on our recent enrollment success reflected by the 4.26 percent increase in students this fall, a variety of special admissions-related events are coming up. Explore Eastern, to be held on Saturday, October 31, will be an open house for prospective students.
Families can get a sneak peek into their students' life on campus during Eastern Michigan University's new Parents and Family Weekend, which takes place this weekend.
Eastern Michigan is proud to participate in the National Day on Writing, taking place today at universities across the country. We expect as many as 2,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni to participate in our many events.
Vice President for Advancement Donald Loppnow will assume the additional duties of Executive Director of the Eastern Michigan University Foundation following the resignation of Ron Miller.
Finally, I want to recognize the passing of a valued, longtime Eastern Michigan employee, Joseph Pollack. Joe died Saturday, October 10, of complications due to Guillain-Barré syndrome. He was 76. Joe began with Eastern in 1995, as a consultant in university relations. In 1997, he took over as Director of Charter Schools for EMU.
Joe's experience as superintendent of schools in Illinois, and in Flint and Ypsilanti served him well as he developed EMU's highly regarded charter schools program. His perspective, expertise and sense of humor were widely valued at Eastern, where he served in a variety of roles and became confidant and advisor to many. In honor of Joe Pollack's countless contributions, Eastern's charter school in Southfield will be renamed the Dr. Joseph F. Pollack Academic Center of Excellence.
Chairman Wilbanks, this concludes my report.
Susan Martin, President