ASMSU's Academic Committee looks at higher education funding
The Associated Students of Michigan State University's, or ASMSU's, Academic Committee meeting featured guest speakers who gave members information on higher education funding and MSU-specific initiatives.
Director of University Relations and Policy for the Michigan Association of Universities and MSU alumnus Bob Murphy explained rising tuition rates across the state's public universities. MSU Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education Dr. Sekhar Chivukula provided the committee with explanations on new programs, such as "Go Green, Go 15."
Acting-chair Ewurama Appiagyei-Dankah felt Murphy's presentation responded to students' grievances well.
"I really, really enjoyed the presentation about state funding for education," Appiagyei-Dankah said. "I think it's really, really important. People will often express a lot of frustration about the fact that our tuition has increased steadily without looking to the source of where and why that's happening. So, that's happening because the state is slashing funding for higher education, and even though it's been increasing over the past few years, it still isn't back to pre-recession levels."
Murphy explained to the committee that higher education lost much of its state funding during the Great Recession, and while the funding has increased since then, it has not yet bounced back. This, he said, has forced universities to drive up tuition rates.
"Higher education is the balancing beam of state budgets," Murphy said. "When things get tight they go, 'Well, we could cut the K-12, but we love those cute little kids, they're adorable. Or, frankly, we could cut some of the other areas." ... Higher education, state lawmakers look at tuition and go, 'Well, we could cut a little bit here, and you can just take care of it with tuition.'"
Appiagyei-Dankah also serves as the vice president of academic affairs for ASMSU, and she believes the next step to addressing this issue lies in partnership with other departments.
"I think there's really something to be said for Academic Affairs and Governmental Affairs doing advocacy, and I really hope that's something that was hammered home to the committee members," Appiagyei-Dankah said.
Murphy went on to explain that without state funding for post-secondary education, his life path could have played out differently.
"I'm from Cadillac, Michigan," Murphy said. "I grew up in a very poor environment. I got the Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Opportunity grant, the Michigan Educational Opportunity grant, the MSU grant. I got things that don't even exist anymore because everybody tightened up the pocket strings that much in the 11 years since I graduated from Michigan State, and if it wasn't for that, I would still be in a poor broken situation in rural northern Michigan."
Chivukula gave the Academic Committee information regarding graduation rates, and how "Go Green, Go 15" can help improve them. He told members that MSU's graduation rate within six years is about 78 percent, while the state average is 60 percent. However, he added that some students have lower rates than others at MSU.
"We see some significant differences among different groups of students,"Chivukula said. "Our African-American students are graduating from Michigan State University at a rate of 60 or 61 percent, almost 20 percent lower (than MSU's overall rate.) Our Hispanic and Latino students graduated at a rate between 22-to-15 percent lower than the average is. That's not acceptable."
Part of addressing this issue, Chivukula believes, is starting out with "credit momentum."
"If you're going to finish in four years, in eight academic semesters, you need to average on order 15 credits a semester," Chivukula said. "It's not a hard and fast rule, 'You must do 15 every semester,' but that's kind of a target that keeps you on track to graduate in four years."
Appiagyei-Dankah said she felt Chivukula's presentation provided committee members with the chance to ask unanswered questions about the university's new direction to improve student success.
"I really liked talking with Dr. Chivukula and Dr. Martin about the different initiatives that they're working on because I think sometimes students feel really far removed from what administration is trying to do and don't really know what the goals are and what they want the student experience to be like," Appiagyei-Dankah said. "So, I'm really excited that we had people come in and talk about the Go 15 initiative and why that was implemented, and what the intent of it is. So, I just really hope people took away that it was not something arbitrary. It had a lot of thought put into it, and that it's ultimately hoping to improve students' success outcomes."