Friday’s MSU Board of Trustees meeting consisted of more than men and women in suits crowded around a lengthy table in the Administration Building. The board nearly unanimously approved budget and tuition rates for the 2013-14 academic year and planned preliminary rates for 2014-15, among other items.
Board of Trustees votes to approve tuition hike, upgrades to athletic facilities at summer meeting
Next year, undergraduate students can expect an average rise in tuition of 2.8 percent. Graduate students will pay slightly more, with an increase of about 4 percent.
Although it was not expected, MSU received an increase in state aid of about $4.4 million compared to last year. MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said state aid is a major factor in deciding tuition.
“(The tuition increase) is much less than we would have projected a year ago, and if the appropriation would have been better, it would have been less,” Simon said.
The rise in tuition will bring a split rate between upper- and lower-level undergraduate students, resulting in a 1.9 percent growth for freshmen and sophomores and a 3.6 percent cost jump for juniors and seniors. Although the subgroups have been paying different amounts all along, it is the first time the rates have changed separately.
Simon said the intention of the split was not to overwhelm older students, but to take some of the burden off younger students.
“It’s a way of signaling and having an advantage for people making that high school to college transition, but also it simply is a technical adjustment to keep those rates more in balance and keep them in the same place over time,” Simon said.
Despite receiving 1.2 percent more in state aid for the 2013-14 academic year, Simon said MSU’s low level of out-of state students, ranking at about 20 percent of the student body, hasn’t done administration any favors.
“We’re still very heavily in-state with students compared to some of our peers, and one of the ways they’re moderating tuition rates is by taking in more and more out-of-state students,” she said.
All but one trustee approved the tuition and budget changes. Trustee Diann Woodard said her objection was directed at lack of funding from state legislation, not at the rates themselves.
“Every decision we make should be made around our children,” Woodard said. “Yet, in the Legislature, they forget the children. While I’m casting a vote that will probably be contrary to most of my other board members, it is not because of the job that we do here … it is because the state has not done their job.”
Down to the wire
Although it was not listed on the agenda, trustees approved a new set of resolutions for the ongoing battle between administration and ASMSU, MSU’s undergraduate student government.
The board agreed if ASMSU doesn’t move all funds to on-campus accounts by July 1, it will be left up to administration to find a new means of tax collection. ASMSU’s student tax for the summer has been collected and withheld by the university since May.
After recruiting students to come to the meeting through its website Thursday night, several members of ASMSU stood in on the meeting — with ASMSU President Evan Martinak not in attendance. They were not permitted to speak on the issue, but Mike Mozina, ASMSU’s Vice President for Student Funding, addressed the board before the vote.
“Although administration officials have assured us numerous times to the contrary, their actions only lead to the conclusion that MSU administration wants a captive student government,” Mozina said.
“In five decades of ASMSU’s existence, never has a president tried to freeze general revenue funds. … Unilaterally freezing those funds is a violation of trust the students place in their university each time they pay their tuition bill.”
As university leaders, Simon said she and the trustees must hold the student government liable for any financial issues they have.
“We have a responsibility … to assure that if there are audits — as there would be in any aspect of the university — that raise any questions about the financial integrity in how they use those dollars, it is our belief that the university has the responsibility to deal with it,” she said.
After reaching out to Martinak to help several times with no reply, Trustee Brian Mosallam said he was disappointed in his course of action.
“That wall’s going to continue to grow, and he’s made no outreach to me,” Mosallam said. “He’s made no attempt to sit down. If there is not communication, nothing will get resolved.”
Many new renovation projects were approved by the trustees, both to plan for and move on with construction.
After years of waiting, plans to renovate Chittenden Hall, which has been vacant since the 1990s, will begin. MSU’s Council of Graduate Students, or COGS, plan to use the building as a centralized area for graduate students.
Dionisia Quiroga, the Vice President for External Affairs for COGS, said it will cost around $6 million to renovate the building.
“This space would serve as a kind of space for the neighborhood graduate students here at MSU and would allow for us to take this historically significant space and renew it and provide a visible symbol of the education and research that is going on at MSU as an aid to its institution,” Quiroga said.
Additions to Spartan Stadium’s north end zone, including new locker rooms for visiting teams, a media center and recruiting facilities also were approved. Construction begins in July and will be completed in December 2015 at a cost of about $24.5 million, all of which will come from donations and stadium-generated revenue.
A $6.5 million renovation to Munn Ice Arena’s ice plant and ventilation system set to begin in October also was approved.