Remarks to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education

February 27, 2009

We are pleased you are meeting here on this historic campus during Eastern Michigan University's 160th year. Eastern plays a vital role in our state. We educate Michigan citizens who stay in Michigan.

Eastern Michigan puts education first and it shows in everything we do. That's why we take our role as educators seriously. We have a strong commitment to provide our students with a practical education that benefits our state and our communities.

Employers tell us that more of our students "hit the ground running," because of our faculty's individualized attention and our university's extensive community engagement. Eastern Michigan also has adapted to changing market demands by offering new coursework and new ways of delivering education.

There is one more characteristic of Eastern Michigan University that has never been more important than it is now. Eastern is truly a Michigan university. Most of our students are from Michigan and stay in Michigan after graduation, becoming highly productive members of our workforce and lifelong contributors to our communities. Eastern Michigan's alumni are a powerful, positive force for change – more than 142,000 strong with 105,000 alumni living and working in Michigan.

Higher education will play a critical role in Michigan and this nation's economic recovery. President Obama set a goal in his State of the Union message that the United States would have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. To meet this goal, we must reinvest in our universities to educate more students with an affordable and accessible menu of academic programs.

I know this is the answer to our recovery because I am a product of Michigan's excellent educational system. I attended a one-room schoolhouse in Croswell, where my teacher happened to be a graduate of Michigan State Normal College – now known as Eastern. I attended Central Michigan University and Michigan State University with state support. I've spent my adult life working in education, and in government as an auditor, deputy state treasurer and as commissioner of revenue for Governors Milliken, Engler, Blanchard and Granholm.

Universities are the prescription for our economic ills. Consider Eastern Michigan's characteristics and special values. We offer academic excellence especially in education, health and human services, science, art and music, and in business and a broad array of more than 200 programs.

We must keep Eastern Michigan University affordable and accessible. We've increased the amount of money for scholarships, implemented Energy Savings Days, and have identified ways to do business more efficiently. One in four teachers in Michigan are Eastern graduates. That means Eastern Michigan-trained educators are a driving force in our state's efforts to develop its knowledge economy. Eastern also is a national leader in preparing highly-trained special education teachers– an area where there is a critical shortage.

Our new Autism Collaborative Center will focus our expertise on the needs of Michigan families with autistic children. When Eastern Michigan approved its new master's degree in autism spectrum disorders last year, it was a major step in addressing a growing need for services for children affected by the disorder. The Autism Collaborative Center is a partnership between Eastern and St. Joseph Health Systems that will provide treatment, outpatient services and support systems for people with autism and their families. When fully operational in fall 2009, it will offer training for students from eight disciplines across three Eastern Michigan University colleges; conduct research into treatment options, and provide much-needed affordable care.

A recent report to the Michigan House Health Policy Committee states that Michigan's demand for registered nurses is expected to exceed supply by 7,000 nurses in 2010. There will be a shortage of 18,000 nurses by 2015, according to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

Eastern's School of Nursing faculty have expanded their programs to provide some much needed help to ease the situation. In 2009, Eastern Michigan is increasing its bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) program by 32 students (80 to 112, a 40-percent increase) and by 70 students in our RN-to-BSN program (58 to 128 students.) This increases our BSN program from 138 to 240 students in one year.

One of the quality indicators of any nursing program is the pass rate of students on the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Our percentage of nursing students who passed the exam on the first try was 94.2 percent from October 2007 to October 2008. The average for Michigan nursing programs was 87 to 88 percent.

Part of this nursing shortage stems from a lack of qualified educators at the state's two-and-four-year nursing programs. Simply put, universities are turning away qualified applicants because their programs can't accommodate them. Eastern Michigan would like to thank the Michigan Department of Community Health for its grant to support 16 "fast track" students to earn a master's of science degree in nursing and become nurse educators.

To address the nursing shortage, Eastern Michigan will launch a doctoral program, the first of its kind in the Midwest, to prepare nursing faculty. The program expects to admit 15 nurses, who already hold master's degrees, to earn doctoral degrees and train the next generation of nurses.

Eastern's faculty are also achieving solid results with grant-supported research and programs. For example:

  • The National Science Foundation awarded a grant to our faculty to develop the Detroit Mayor's Youth Technology Corps. The program provides Detroit high school students with training and hands-on practice in a variety of Information Technology management tools;
  • Eastern Michigan faculty will use a Department of Education grant to help math, science, social studies and language arts teachers integrate English-as-a-second-language teaching into their specific content areas;
  • Eastern's School of Engineering Technology faculty are using a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop novel polyester polyols and their derivatives to formulate environmentally-friendly and sustainable coatings;
  • The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and our health education professors are working with Lincoln Consolidated Schools in Ypsilanti to bring a wellness program to 1,770 elementary school children, teachers and school employees.
  • The Great Lakes Urban Teacher Consortium (DREAMS) grant will allow Eastern faculty to address significant issues affecting the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act;
  • With faculty support, the Comprehensive "Wrap Around" Social Services for High-Risk Teen Parents and Their Families program is expanding services for some of the state's most vulnerable families; and
  • Eastern Michigan scientists will use coupled remote sensing to biologically monitor invasive plants and measure their impact on the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.
  • Eastern Michigan and WWJ Newsradio have teamed up to offer educational tips and advice to help parents complement and extend the learning their children receive in school. Called Education Minute, these topics provided by EMU faculty offer tips about math, science, technology, writing and reading, and learning beyond the walls.

Eastern Michigan sees a rare one-time opportunity for the state of Michigan to address significant pent-up demand for capital improvements on Michigan college campuses and to assist our state universities in the retrofitting of older buildings with money-saving, energy-efficient technology that will reduce energy consumption and costs over time. As the state's second oldest public university, Eastern has several renovation projects, including a science complex, designed and ready to employ workers. This would help jump-start our state economy and provide our student population with greatly improved facilities in which to study and live that are competitive with the world.

Eastern Michigan broke ground on a self-funded $90-million renovation of the Mark Jefferson science complex in November. This is a historic project in several respects. It is the largest single construction project in the history of the University. But more importantly, this complex will help Eastern meet the state and national need for more teachers in science, technology, engineering and math. As a leader in science education, we are building on our strengths.

Eastern Michigan has submitted the renovation of the Strong Hall science building as its next state-supported capital improvement request. When completed, the $38-million, LEED Silver-certified Strong Hall project will provide modern educational and research facilities for Geology and Geography and the Physics and Astronomy departments. The Strong Hall project is also the final stage in the three-stage Mark Jefferson Science complex providing Eastern with a science and research facility on par with peer institutions nationwide.

Last year's capital outlay bill was the first time in 12 years that Eastern Michigan has received state funding to make a capital improvement. Since 1993, state universities have averaged 5.1 state-supported capital projects. However, Eastern has received only three state-funded projects during the same period. This leaves Eastern in immediate need of additional state investments simply to catch up to the capital resources of its peer institutions. A FY10 capital outlay improvement bill that includes project approval for Strong Hall will put Eastern Michigan at a competitive edge to attract faculty and students that are innovative, creative and able to tap their "heads" to pull Michigan ahead.

I'd like to thank Gov. Granholm and our legislators for the capital outlay funds to modernize our Pray-Harrold classroom building. This is one of the largest classroom buildings in Michigan, servicing 10,000-12,000 students a day in peak time and we thank the legislature and the Governor for supporting this project. We also hope that many of our shovel-ready projects that will produce guaranteed energy-savings will qualify for support and funding under the stimulus package. As a historic institution, we have many wonderful building that need refreshment in a sustainable energy-savings path.

Our Center for Entrepreneurship is extremely remains active and provides curriculum, research and economic development support for entrepreneurs, faculty and students. Its economic arm is the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center.

Through the Development Center, Eastern Michigan operates six offices in Wayne, Oakland and Monroe counties, and provides no-cost services to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Services include free business plan development, marketing research and training. The center counseled 757 clients; provided support for 41 new businesses; helped create 251 new jobs, and preserved 163 jobs with technical assistance in effective business management, and support through $6 million in new financing.

Eastern is a major partner in the Eastern Washtenaw Leaders Group, which is actively involved in stimulating our regional economy. Our faculty and administrators are playing key roles on the group's committees dealing with education, collaboration/redevelopment and business incubator opportunities. This partnership has led to the Spark East business incubator in downtown Ypsilanti, which recently opened for business. The incubator already has three tenants immediately upon opening.

The University also has a formal agreement with the Workforce Development Board and other Michigan Economic Growth Authority partners to work together in education, economic/community and workforce development to provide business solutions to employers in Washtenaw County.

Partners include the leadership of the Ann Arbor and the Ypsilanti Area Chambers of Commerce; Ann Arbor SPARK; the Michigan Economic Development Corporation; the University of Michigan Business Engagement Center, and the Washtenaw County Workforce Development Board – Michigan Works! Agency, which is a partner of WIRED Region (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development.)

Eastern's emphasis on out-of-classroom experiences for students is a vital part of our curriculum. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching recently selected Eastern Michigan University to receive its 2008 Community Engagement Classification. This classification provides national recognition of EMU's commitment and impact in improving the lives of individuals and the community, and as a means for enhancing learning. For example:

  • Our students have contributed more than 38,000 volunteer hours in the community through our program, Volunteers Incorporating Service Into Our Neighborhoods, more popularly called VISION.
  • Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels and Eastern Michigan's 34-year partnership was recognized as a finalist in 2007 for the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus Community Collaboration.
  • Eastern's Dining Services prepares meals at cost for Meals on Wheels, while VISION volunteers deliver meals and support the operation of the organization.
  • Eastern's Upward Bound Program has a 41-year partnership with Ypsilanti and Willow Run High Schools to prepare students for academic excellence, global citizenship and lifelong learning through academic support and tutoring.
  • In a rare opportunity, our historic preservation faculty and students helped present a case to the Secretary of the Interior for designating the 1812 River Raisin Battlefield in Monroe as a National Park. Congressman John Dingell facilitated this meeting. The ultimate goal is to get approval for the site as both a National Historic Landmark and possibly a National Park.

These efforts have brought Eastern Michigan University national recognition for scholarship and citizenship. For example:

  • Eastern Michigan was recognized as a "Best Midwestern College" by The Princeton Review for the sixth straight year.
  • For the fifth consecutive year, The Princeton Review recognized Eastern's College of Business as one of the "Best 296 Business Schools" in the nation.
  • This is the third year that our University has been named to the President's Honor Roll by The Corporation for National and Community Service. The Honor Roll recognizes colleges and universities nationwide that support innovative and effective community service and service-learning programs.

In countless ways Eastern Michigan University is helping to positively transform our schools, environment, communities, and state. But such important work requires constant reinvestment. This is why I am troubled by the proposed tuition freeze and 3- percent across-the-board cut to higher education.

The proposed 3-percent cut to higher education would mean a loss to Eastern Michigan University in state appropriations of approximately $2.4 million FY10. If combined with the Governor's proposed tuition freeze, Eastern Michigan would face a budget deficit of approximately $12 million, based on our existing budget.

While it is attractive to use federal stimulus dollars to hold universities harmless from cuts for FY10 and FY11, the Eastern Michigan University administration is concerned about the structural deficits that would be the result entering FY12, when the stimulus money runs out. A 3-percent cut in FY10, if combined with a similar backfilled cut in FY11, could leave state universities facing an overall 6-7 percent decline in state appropriations for FY12, when the stimulus money is exhausted.

Eastern strongly recommends that higher education support be increased using general fund revenues to protect and reinvest in higher education to be competitive with other states in attracting businesses to locate here.

I must also appeal to you not to discontinue the King/Chavez/Parks Initiative Program. At Eastern Michigan, this important program helps fund twelve graduate assistants and seven students assistants who run programs specifically geared toward disadvantaged students. Last year alone, this program assisted more than 1,700 low-income students and reached out to 644 new freshmen probation students who might not have remained in school without intervention.

My final request is that this new Legislature deals with the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) problem. Eastern Michigan University is one of the "MPSERS Seven,"- public universities participating in a state retirement care program that escalates in cost. The impact of the MPSERS problem on Eastern's budget for FY09 alone is $3.56 million.

Now is the time to invest in Michigan citizens by investing in higher education. Let's meet President Obama's goal to have the U.S. have the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Michigan must not continue in last place in support of college education. Just as Eastern has always targeted and served Michigan citizens, let's use this stimulus money to help relieve the tuition burden for our Michigan families and students in a meaningful and important way.

Let's use these stimulus dollars to reinvest in educational facilities that need refreshening in a sustainable manner that saves energy and reduces our dependence on others and the pressure of those cost incrases upon our budgets. Let's meet President Obama's goal to have the U.S. have the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. Michigan must not continue in last place in support of college education. At Eastern, we educate Michigan citizens who stay in Michigan.