Governor's Budget/Organizational Changes

March 21, 2012

To Students, Faculty and Staff:

I hope you are all having a great academic year and winter semester. Several important developments are taking place, both externally and internally, and this update is designed to share them with you.

First – the Governor’s recent budget message. The Governor‘s proposed budget has no increase in Eastern’s base appropriation of $64.6 million but proposes $36.2 million in one-time money for all public universities, of which $1.499.3 million is targeted for Eastern -- a 2.3 percent increase. Last year, $216 million was permanently cut from the 15 public universities – an $11.4 million base cut for Eastern. Distribution of the $36.2 million will be based upon a formula comprised of four factors:

  1. Growth in undergraduate degree completions
  2. Number of undergraduate degree completions in critical skills areas (STEM, etc.)
  3. Number of undergraduate Pell Grant recipients
  4. Compliance with tuition restraint (to be allocated once all institutions have set 2012-2013 tuition rates).

We believe the focus on degree production rather than graduation rates is the right approach. A formula based on graduation rates would unfairly penalize universities such as Eastern that encourage and accommodates at risk students. Eastern ranks third among the 15 public universities in Pell Grant recipients, which also favors Eastern in this formula. The fourth variable – tuition restraint – has been a major focus of Eastern for the past three years, and should, if properly constructed, reflect favorably on Eastern as well.

The problem with the tuition restraint variable as presented in the Governor’s budget is that it focuses on next year’s tuition levels and does not account for past performance. Each of the other three variables measures an average over three years, and we strongly believe the fourth variable should as well, which would reward Eastern’s tuition restraint. Addressing this issue will be a major focus of our efforts in Lansing. From an overall standpoint, however, we feel formula funding does not properly reward the uniqueness of each public university and what they do well.

Autism insurance coverage is also proposed as well as $446,200 for Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System ( MPSERS ) funding for seven universities, of which Eastern is included. The Governor’s budget proposal is the beginning of the budget legislative process in Lansing and there will be months of discussion before a final budget is enacted. We will work hard to influence an increase in funding for higher education and for Eastern and to utilize factors that reward our performance. Join us and bus to Lansing for EMU Day on March 20, 2012!

The legislation to permit community colleges to award four-year degrees is currently in the Senate Education Committee after passing the House. The bill is alive until the end of session in December 2012, and we continue to work hard to prevent it passing the Senate and being enacted. The 15 public universities have capacity to serve the need for college degrees and we see no reason to add more four-year universities when funding for higher education has been cut so drastically.

As far as Eastern’s budget, we are currently working to identify short and long-term savings and additional revenues to balance our budget for FY 11-12. It is currently approximately $3 million less than our projections – a manageable amount representing about one percent of the annual budget. For example, I am eliminating a Cabinet position, Special Assistant to the President, which is currently vacant and will save about $130,000. At the end of the winter semester, we will not extend the lease at our Flint location where we currently have nine students enrolled in one class. Eliminating that location will save about $120,000. Those two decisions add up to $250,000 in permanent savings. We will continue to seek efficiencies in how we do our work to manage tight budgets and scarce resources while supporting a great education.

I also am announcing some organizational changes today that will be effective next Monday, Feb. 20. The Enrollment Management team led by Associate VP Kevin Kucera will move to Academic Affairs and report to the Provost along with the enrollment management areas -- Admissions, Financial Aid, Records & Registration, Service EMU, Veteran Services, and the Office of International Students. This is a common organizational structure at many universities and ensures that the Provost and her team are accountable for the entire spectrum of recruiting and admitting students to get them to Eastern, and then supporting their success to continue their studies and graduate in a timely manner. Bernice Lindke will be VP of Student Affairs and continue to lead Student Life, Student Well-Being, and Student Services/Business Operations. Locations of staff and the offices remain the same.

The Alumni Relations team led by Interim Director Dan Mathis will move to the Division of Communications and report to VP Walter Kraft. This will provide more support for strong communications with alumni to engage them in campus activities and initiatives. Alumni Relations also will be looking at a possible move to McKenny Hall to better welcome our alumni back to campus and to display some of our history. The Division of Communications with Alumni Relations will continue to support the fundraising activity of the Foundation.

We want to reassure all of the employees in enrollment management and alumni relations that we value what you do and no layoffs are planned as part of this reorganization. We will continue to evaluate our organization and processes across campus to determine how to strengthen and improve our service to students and alumni.

As many of you are aware, we are engaged in a strategic planning process and more than 2,000 individuals have provided input so far. We look forward to further discussions with the campus and external community about the strategic direction for the future success of Eastern and our students. We will continue to focus on enhancements that directly impact the academic success of our students.

As always, I appreciate your support and welcome your comments.

Thank you,
Susan W. Martin