President's Testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations

March 1, 2010

Good morning.

First, thank you, Senator Stamas, for inviting me to talk with you and the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. I am pleased to introduce to you Chad Wing, Eastern's new Director of State and Federal Relations. He joins Leigh Greden, who will be Eastern's new Executive Director of Governmental and Community Relations.

I am thrilled with the governor's proposal to keep higher education funding at this year's levels for the 2010–11 budget. Having worked in Michigan state government in positions such as assistant auditor general, deputy state treasurer and as commissioner of revenue, I acutely understand the financial challenges facing Lansing. This is a distinctly difficult time, with unprecedented, painful decisions that must be made in this year's budget. We hope the legislature will embrace this recommendation and avoid further cuts to higher education.

We want to help the state. An example of this was announced just two weeks ago. The Department of History, Arts and Libraries, which had run the marker program, was abolished in a cost-saving move by the state. So Eastern Michigan University and the Michigan History Foundation will work with the Michigan Historical Commission to maintain the state's Historical Marker Program. Eastern plans to incorporate the markers into its graduate program in historic preservation. This innovative collaboration benefits the state and our students.

Affordability matters. We are trying hard to do our part. Our tuition increase of 3.8 percent for this academic year was the lowest percentage increase of any of Michigan's 15 public universities. As an additional show of support, the top 100 paid administrators at Eastern took a pay freeze this year.

Our efforts do not stop there. Over the next academic year, Eastern Michigan will offer more than $30.4 million in scholarships, awards and grants to its students. In the last three years, Eastern has increased student financial aid by almost $9 million, or 42 percent. That additional funding is helping to address the increased number of students applying for need-based aid or appealing for additional funding because of a job loss in our state.

About 75 percent of Eastern's students received some form of financial aid in the 2008-09 academic year, with an average award amount of $11,061. More than 5,500 students received Pell Grants that year, amounting to about 32 percent of the undergraduate student body. The percentage total of Eastern's Pell Grant recipients is among the highest of Michigan's public universities.

Access matters. Eastern considers itself a school of opportunity, where students who did not think they could complete college realize their potential and achieve a degree. The traditional freshman (18 years old, right out of high school) joins with returning adults, transfer students from community colleges, international students from over 90 countries, and military veterans. In the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical area encompassing eight counties surrounding Detroit, including Washtenaw County, there are 321,000 young adults between the ages of 25–34 (25.3% of the total) with some college but no degree. Eastern is uniquely positioned to reach out and serve this population and help them complete college. Many Eastern students must work to support themselves and struggle to pay for college. And 75 percent of our graduates remain in the state to pursue their career, with one out of four teachers in Michigan having at least one degree from Eastern.

Diversity matters. Eastern is as a national leader in African-American graduates. Of the students who have identified their ethnicity, more than 20 percent of students at Eastern this winter term are African Americans, and 23 percent are members of traditionally underrepresented minority groups. "Diverse Issues in Higher Education" magazine recently recognized Eastern as one of the top 100 institutions in the nation for the number of African American students who receive an undergraduate degree.

Veterans matter. Eastern opened a new, central location for its Veteran Services Office. The office provides services to those on or just released from active duty, or spouses or dependents of a disabled veteran. In addition, all U.S. military veterans will be able to attend Eastern at resident tuition rates under a new award called "Vet Connect" approved by the Board of Regents in October.

Eastern is widely recognized for such specific efforts on behalf of its students. The University was named one of the country's top "military friendly" schools by "GI Jobs" magazine for 2010.

Investing in our future matters. Our faculty puts Education First, and cares about our students. We have authorized 42 faculty searches to seek the best talent to educate our students. Our focus on serving our students and citizens of the great state of Michigan also require reinvestment in state-of -the-art educational facilities. Eastern is entering its most active year of construction in recent history. Work continues on the self-funded, $90 million Science Complex project, adding 75,000 square feet of new space with a planetarium that will open during the fall semester, and on the renovation of the Mark Jefferson science building. The complex and renovation, which form the largest building project in Eastern's history, will encourage interdisciplinary research. We hope the State will strongly consider our capital outlay request for the renovation of Strong Hall, which would complete this state-of-the-art Science Complex, and provide modern educational and research facilities for the Geology, Geography and the Physics and Astronomy departments.

Renovations are beginning on the Pray-Harrold classroom building, Eastern's busiest academic facility, with 10,000 students circulating daily through its halls. The end of winter term in April will signal a massive, temporary move-out from this building, the beginning of a fast-track construction schedule that aims to complete work by fall of 2011 on the $42-million project. The move-out plan is called "Swing Space," a dramatic, collaborative effort that will save a year in time and $3 million in construction costs that can be reinvested in furniture, fixtures and equipment to deliver a first-class facility to Eastern's students. We thank the State of Michigan for the $31.5 million capital outlay appropriation for this project.

Last September, Eastern demonstrated its commitment to the safety and security of students and staff in opening a state-of-the-art, $3.9-million facility for the Department of Public Safety.

Eastern opened the new Autism Collaborative Center, located in the former Fletcher Elementary School in Ypsilanti, last fall. The center is unique in that it serves families with individuals with autism ages 3–26. The center, which now services 75 families, was recently featured on the PBS program, "A Wider World."

Sustainability matters. Eastern continues to try to cut costs and save energy through a variety of projects and programs. A partnership between Eastern and Chevron Energy Solutions is helping to improve energy efficiency on campus through projects that will pay for themselves within 10 years. An old steam system in a residence hall was replaced by a hot water system that allowed thermostats to be placed in each room. Replacement of 727 windows that were nearly 60 years old is reducing heat loss in the Brown-Munson Residence Hall Complex. We are testing an oxygenated boiler system that could save up to 50 percent of our fuel costs. We have reduced Eastern's energy budget by $3 million in two years.

Innovation matters. We adjust our academic offerings to reflect the changing demands of the job market. For instance, Eastern's Information Assurance Program redesigned its courses to address the growing need for information security professionals who can prevent cyber attacks. The nursing program has increased its capacity in RN to BSN completion programs on and off-campus, in BSN programs, and offers a new doctoral degree in nursing education to increase the number of qualified nursing faculty in Michigan. The business school offers a masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications that is completely online.

Partnerships matter. We make an exceptional effort to cooperate with community colleges in order to offer an affordable education for our state's students and workers. For example, Eastern recently signed its 100th articulation agreement with a community college. These agreements allow students who choose to begin their studies at a community college to transfer to Eastern with up to 80–92 credits toward their degree. Eastern and Washtenaw Community College signed an agreement that will provide transfer students the opportunity to complete a nursing degree at Eastern and transfer 82 credits. The most popular articulation programs are technology management, business and nursing completion, and we signed all three of these with Mott Community College in Flint recently. We see no need to institute four-year degree programs at community colleges.

Service and economic impact matter. Eastern continues to embrace its role in serving the public and community. A report released last fall on the social and economic impact of Eastern Michigan University offers evidence of how the University affects the community. Just a few examples:

  • Eastern's total impact on the Michigan economy of $3.7 billion for 2008 reflects a return of $42 for each dollar received from the state.
  • Eastern's annual operations budget and construction spending of about $500 million has a total impact on the regional economy of more than $1.5 billion per year. That includes a total of 30 jobs for each million spent.
  • Eastern students spent an estimated $112 million for off-campus expenses in 2008.
  • In 2007-08, Eastern collaborated with more than 800 different area organizations to engage in community-service activities.
  • 4,455 students received credit for field-experience courses, including internships, co-operative education and student teaching.

Eastern cares about and is connected with the state it serves. A recent, grass-roots example is the "EMU Education First Stimulus program," which gives hard-working alumni who are teachers help where they need it the most – in the classroom. The university sent a letter to 13,000 area education alumni last fall, urging teachers to enter the free drawing or indicate an interest in other available, useful items. A second-grade teacher from Taylor won a year's worth of school supplies, delivered directly to her classroom.

Eastern's Institute for Geospatial Research, the EMU Department of Public Safety and the Ypsilanti Police Department created a mapping/tracking system for area crime. The new feature increases awareness of area crime and enhances the safety of our students.

Numerous recent grants also highlight Eastern's broad efforts to contribute to the well being of the state of Michigan. A sampling:

  • A $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor seeks to assist workers who have been displaced from jobs during the past five years in obtaining a baccalaureate degree in Technology Management. The director of the program, Professor Pamela Becker, a former autoworker, was recently featured in The Wall Street Journal and in Crain's Detroit Business.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice awarded $536,000 for expanding comprehensive wrap-around social services for high-risk teen parents and their families. The program will broaden services for some of the state's most vulnerable families and parents, including those who have mental health problems, foster children who become parents while still in care, and minority children.
  • The U.S. Army awarded $727,000 to develop technology to be used in making a foolproof antibacterial garment for combat soldiers and security personnel. If successful, this technology will be marketed for licensing to a Michigan-based business.
  • A special program at Eastern, the "The B-Side," or The Business Side of Youth, helps develop the enterprising spirit and marketable skills of young people in Ypsilanti through providing mentors, entrepreneurial and leadership training and programming. A $76,000 grant from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation helps fund the program.
  • This winter, Eastern became one of six Michigan public universities to win The W.K. Kellogg Foundation's Woodrow Wilson Michigan Teaching Fellowship, a $16.7 million grant for training 240 new math and science teachers to work in selected middle and high schools.
Other significant and recent recognitions of Eastern include:
  • The Princeton Review named EMU a "Best Midwestern College" for 2010. This marks the seventh consecutive year that Eastern has received the designation.
  • The Princeton Review also named EMU's College of Business as one of the nation's 300 most outstanding business schools for the sixth consecutive year.

Two upcoming events spotlight Eastern's student-centered mission. In mid-March, The College of Business will again play host to Ethos Week, the only event in higher education where a college and business community collaborate to examine business ethics. Robert Bobb, Emergency Finance Chief for The Detroit Public Schools, will deliver the keynote address.

Then, at the end of March, comes Eastern Michigan's Salute to Excellence Week, culminating in the Research Symposium, which celebrates the exceptional academic work of our students with faculty. Now in its 30th year, the symposium began with 17 students and 19 faculty sponsors. Last year, more than 300 undergraduate students, more than 200 graduate students and 190 faculty sponsors participated in the oldest such symposium in the country.

Exciting as it is, this activity occurs against a backdrop of financial responsibility and accountability. We will continue to strive to keep costs down for students and to set an example for the rest of the state. I urge you to preserve this year's levels of higher education funding, and I hope we've made it clear we're doing our part to reach out to Michigan citizens with an affordable, accessible education. Access, affordability and diversity matter.