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

May 19, 2010

Good morning.

First, thank you, Representative Bauer, for inviting me to talk with you and the members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. I am pleased to introduce to you Chad Wing, Eastern Michigan University's new Director of State and Federal Relations, and Leigh Greden, who is Eastern's new Executive Director of Government and Community Relations.

Zero, zero, zero. Great things are happening at Eastern Michigan University. This week, our Board of Regents approved a plan of "Zero, Zero, Zero." Eastern is holding tuition, fees, room and board to a zero percent increase for the 2010-2011 academic year. This move continues the momentum generated last year, when Eastern held our tuition increase for the current 2009-2010 academic year to 3.8 percent, the lowest of all Michigan public institutions. This action is not without risk to our bottom line and credit rating, and I applaud the Board of Regents for their courage in this decision.

We believe in and support Michigan students and their families during these difficult economic times. Our focus is clear: Higher education is the path to prosperity for Michigan. Eastern Michigan is accessible, it is affordable, and it emphasizes academic excellence. We seek to be the leader, Education First; accessible and affordable for Michigan students and their families while providing a quality education and an academic focus that lays the foundation for student success in the 21st century global, knowledge-based economy.

Our low tuition, room and board rates are largely the result of management's focus on cost savings and efficiencies. We increased vigilance in all areas of spending while continuing to reinvest in new faculty and facilities.

Our efforts on behalf of students do not stop with the zero percent increase in tuition, fees, room and board. Over the next academic year, Eastern Michigan will increase financial aid by $1.4 million to a total of $30.4 million. Over the last three years, we have increased financial aid by $9 million, which is a 42-percent increase. 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. Such aid is crucial. 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, 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.

Eastern's Zero, Zero, Zero plan is a statement about what really matters to Eastern Michigan University. It aligns with other campus priorities that are outlined below:

Investing in our future matters. Our faculty puts Education First, and cares about our students. We have authorized 43 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 requires reinvestment in state-of-the-art educational facilities. Eastern is entering its most active year of construction in recent history.

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 next week will signal a massive, temporary move-out from this building, the beginning of a fast-track construction schedule that aims to complete work on the $42-million project by fall of 2011. The move-out plan is called "Swing Space," a dramatic, collaborative effort that will save one 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. Meanwhile, 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 this fall, 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.

I should note that that, historically, EMU has been under-funded in capital outlays. Specifically, dating back to 1993, EMU ranks 10th out of our 15 public universities in the total capital outlay dollars awarded, and last in the number of capital outlay projects awarded.

There have been other significant projects on campus that aim to improve the welfare of our students. 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. We have added a crime response unit of three officers and four dispatchers to improve safety on campus, along with a new mass communication system and new digital billboards that will quickly inform students in the event of an emergency.

Eastern also 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 featured on the PBS program, "A Wider World."

Sustainability matters: Our "greening of campus continues. The Mark-Jefferson Science Complex and Pray-Harrold renovations will be LEED certified. Moreover, EMU has been investing in energy-efficient updates around campus. For example, 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. Replacement of 727 windows that were nearly 60 years old is significantly 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've planted 100 trees. In January alone, we recycled 17 tons of material, as compared to 7.5 tons last January – an increase of 225 percent.

Over the last several years, our total consumption of energy units on our main Ypsilanti campus has declined and total energy expenses have fallen by over $4 million per year, from $13 million to $9 million, even though enrollment has increased. These investments have saved money and reduced energy consumption, and we're able to pass those savings onto Michigan families through the Zero, Zero, Zero initiative that avoids any increase in tuition, room, and board for the 2010-2011 academic year.

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 most of our graduates remain in the State for their career, with one out of four teachers in Michigan having at least one degree from Eastern.

Diversity matters. Eastern is 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 recognized Eastern as one of the top 100 institutions in the nation for the number of African American students who receive an undergraduate degree. Besides this, we continue to support and bring diverse events to our campus.

Veterans matter. This academic year, 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 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.

Innovation matters. We adjust our academic offerings to reflect the changing demands of the job market. For instance, Eastern's 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. Eastern's Information Assurance Program redesigned its courses to address the growing need for information security professionals who can prevent cyber attacks. The business school offers a master's 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 with 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. Eastern also values our partnerships with the State. When the Department of History, Arts and Libraries – which had run the statewide historic marker program – was abolished in a cost-saving move, we rose to the challenge. 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.

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 invested by 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. Eastern 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 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. For example:

  • A $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Labor assists 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.
  • 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, the seventh consecutive year 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.

Exciting as it is, this activity occurs against a backdrop of financial responsibility and accountability. Our Zero, Zero, Zero initiative attempts to address that in a most substantive and meaningful fashion.

We will continue to strive to keep costs down for students and to set an example for the rest of the State. Having worked in Michigan 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 next year's budget. Nonetheless, we hope the legislature will invest in our State's future by avoiding further cuts to higher education.

We hope you can do your part, and in turn, we are trying hard to do our part to reach out to Michigan citizens with an affordable, accessible education. Zero, Zero, Zero shows that access, affordability and diversity matter to Eastern Michigan University.

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