Board of Trustees approves tuition increase, construction projects, appoints new dean
Editors note: This article has been changed to accurately reflect the employment status of Donald E. Heller and Interim Dean Robert Floden at MSU.
Grand Rapids – The MSU Board of Trustees acted as many anticipated in light of decreased state funding and voted on Friday to increase tuition by nearly 7 percent for this coming fall semester.
The 6.9 percent increase is less than the 7.2 percent hike in tuition which was planned for under last year’s guidelines. “We never take a tuition increase lightly,” MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said. “It is always a difficult balance between quality … and the near-term cost for students.”
The board also approved this year’s 2011-12 operating budget, and next year’s preliminary budget guidelines. The guidelines for the 2012-13 year are anticipating a 0 percent change in funding from the state.
“I think the early signs are that Michigan’s economy is turning around,” Simon said. “The governor has been clear that when that occurs, higher education will be one of those benefactors.”
Simon said at the meeting this year’s budget guidelines are a result of a 25 percent drop in appropriations from the state since 2001, including a 15 percent cut in funding this past year. In all, MSU has imposed operating reductions of $123 million since the 2000-01 school year to deal with those funding losses, according to documents presented at the meeting by Simon.
Simon said faculty at the university have voluntarily forgone salary increases for one pay cycle, and said the university has reduced health care costs about 10 percent to address various funding issues. “We’ve been able to provide a quality product (in regards to employee healthcare),” Simon said. “I think we’ve done it in great partnership with our employees.”
Simon said that despite cuts in funding, 24 percent of undergraduate students will receive Pell Grants for this coming school year. That figure is up more than 5 percent from last year.
In addition to their approval of the budget and tuition rates, the board also approved the appointment of Donald E. Heller as the next dean of the College of Education.
Provost Kim Wilcox said Heller, who currently works as a senior scientist and professor of education at Penn State University, is an expert in educational policy and finance who will advance the college’s mission.
In addition to his work at Penn State, Heller also has served as a consultant to numerous policy advocate groups and university systems on higher education and economics. Heller’s appointment will go into effect Jan. 1, 2012. University Distinguished Professor Robert Floden, a member of the College of Education, will serve as interim dean, effective August 16.
Among other key items, the board authorized the advancement of changes to MSU’s sexual harassment policy. Now, President Simon has full authority to implement interim measures to bring MSU’s current policy up to federal government standards.
The board also took action on a number of personnel items. 10 professors received recognition as University Distinguished Professors, and 32 professors received appointments as associate
Following those actions, the trustees approved a new reproductive and developmental sciences initiative that pairs faculty in the Department of Animal Science and the College of Human Medicine.
“We are very excited,” said Asgi Fazelbas, an MSU professor in the College of Human Medicine who is leading the partnership. “We think the future (for this program) is wonderful.”
The board also approved planning for several construction projects, including renovations to Spartan Stadium, Kellogg Center and the Union. The food court and lobby area will be the prime focus of renovations in the Union. Funding for that project will not be taken from tuition revenues, according to members of the board.