Remarks to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education

April 20, 2009

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.

Eastern is truly a Michigan university. Ninety percent of our enrolled students are from Michigan and they 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 and an important force in Michigan's economy. Eastern has 105,000 alumni living and working in Michigan. One out of every 4 teachers in Michigan was educated at Eastern Michigan University.

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

I am an example of Michigan's excellent educational system. I attended a one-room school house 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 Michigan in state government as an auditor, deputy state treasurer and as commissioner of revenue for Governors Milliken, Engler, Blanchard and Granholm, and as Chair of the State of Michigan Hospital Finance Authority for the past 20 years. I have worked as a faculty member, department chair, and Executive Associate Vice President at Grand Valley State, Provost at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and now President at Eastern Michigan University. I want to thank the citizens of this State for my education and wonderful career by telling you today that I will not accept a salary increase for FY 2009-10 to do my part to keep college affordable.

Eastern appreciates the support through federal stimulus dollars to hold state funding at 2008-09levels for this year and 2009-10 and 2010-11. Eastern Michigan University administration is concerned about the challenge that will result entering 2011-12, when the stimulus money runs out. A 3-percent cut in FY 2010, if combined with a similar back filled cut in FY 2011, could leave state universities facing an overall 6-7percent decline in state appropriations for FY 2012, when the stimulus money is exhausted. The proposed 3-percent cut to Eastern's state appropriations would be $2.4 million inFY2010. The Governor's proposed tuition freeze and 3-percent cut would cause Eastern Michigan to face a budget deficit of approximately $12 million, based on our existing budget, so we are grateful for any stimulus funding.

I must also appeal to you to continue 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 FY 2009 alone is $3.56 million.

We must keep Eastern Michigan University affordable and accessible. We have increased the amount of money for scholarships, implemented Energy Savings Days, and have identified ways to do business more efficiently. We will continue to be aggressive in cost containment and to seek new ways to efficiently manage our limited resources.

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 overtime. As the state's second oldest public university, Eastern has several renovation projects,including a science complex, designed and ready to employ workers. This project will put people to work, help our state economy and provide our student population with greatly improved facilities in which to study and live that facilitate research and keep us competitive.

Eastern Michigan broke ground last Fall on a self-funded $90-million project that creates more 70,000 square feet of new laboratory and instructional space and renovation of the Mark Jefferson building in the new science complex. 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 science 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 piece of the science complex.

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 FY 2010capital outlay improvement bill that includes project approval for Strong Hall will put Eastern Michigan at a competitive edge to attract faculty and students who are innovative, creative and able to tap their "heads" to pull Michigan ahead.

I would like to thank Governor 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 more than 10,000 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 buildings that need energy-savings renovation as soon as possible.

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. 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.

Again, one in four teachers in Michigan is an Eastern graduate. 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 family members from ages 3 to26. 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. There are approximately 4,400 autistic individuals in the seven counties around Eastern Michigan that can be served by the new Autism Collaborative Center.

A recent report to the Michigan House Health Policy Committee states that Michigan's demand for registered nurses is expect 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 128students.) 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 the 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 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 members 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.
  • 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 News radio have teamed up to offer educational tips and advice to help parents complement and extend the learning their children receive in school. Topics provided by EMU faculty offer tips about math, science, technology, writing and reading, and learning beyond the classroom walls.

Our Center for Entrepreneurship is extremely 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 has 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 is open for business right across the street from our College of Business. The incubator already has four tenants.

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 – MichiganWorks! Agency, which is a partner of WIRED Region (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development.)

Eastern's emphasis on beyond-the-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, or 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 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 the 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.

Eastern strongly recommends the development of a plan that will increase support for Michigan students of modest means to attend Michigan universities. We must protect and reinvest Michigan's great asset of strong universities in order to be competitive with other states in attracting businesses and jobs. Universities are a magnet to draw jobs.

Now is the time to invest in Michigan citizens by investing in higher education.

Just as Eastern has always targeted and served Michigan citizens, let's use the stimulus money to help relieve the tuition burden for our Michigan families and students in a meaningful and important way. Let's use the stimulus dollars to reinvest in educational facilities that need refreshing in a sustainable manner that saves energy and reduces our dependence on others and the pressure of those cost increases upon our budgets. Let's meet President Obama's goal to have the U.S. produce 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.