Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees approved the 2021-2022 budget, including several increases to MSU’s tuition and fees at their Friday morning meeting via Zoom.
President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. began the discussion by recommending these several increases to the Board.
"After nearly four years without a tuition increase for first-year students, we're asking the Board to adjust MSU's tuition rates upward for the 2021-2022 academic year by 2%," Stanley said. "That would equal a $290 increase incoming resident first-year students."
As of the 2020-2021 academic year, the tuition was $7,230 to $8,595 for Michigan resident undergraduate students, and $19,883 to $20,786 for out-of-state undergraduate students, according to MSU's Flat Rate Tuition website. The room and board rate was $5,236 to $5,536 per semester, depending on the selected dining plan, according to the Live On website.
Stanley also recommended implementing a student recreation fee starting at $100 and moving to $260 at the end of a three-year period to help MSU improve several recreation centers on campus. He said many of MSU’s centers have not been adequately improved since their construction.
"To put it plainly, the recreation facilities at Michigan State are pathetic," Nicholas DeFauw, who addressed the Board about the MSU swimming and diving team, said. "And they have been for decades now. Yes, they've spent a lot of money providing facelifts to already dilapidated facilities but that doesn't change the fact that we rank in the lower tier of almost any college in the state of Michigan, let alone the Big Ten or other Power Five conferences."
Along with other recommendations, Stanley recommended increasing MSU’s room and board rate by about $204. Stanley said that MSU is one of the lowest room and board rates statewide and that an increase is necessary.
"This is a modest increase to address our inflationary costs," Senior Vice President for Residential and Hospitality Services and Auxiliary Services Vennie Gore said.
To alleviate these increases, Stanley said the university is expecting to increase available financial aid for students. Also, students whose family income is below $100,000, about 11,000 students, would not be affected by the tuition increase.
The tuition increase passed with a vote of 5-3. Trustees Pat O’Keefe, Rema Vassar and Kelly Tebay all voted against the motion. The room and board increase passed unanimously.
O’Keefe said that although he disagrees with the decision, he believes the Board worked diligently to balance the interests of students and the university.
"I believe a tuition increase is necessary so that our fine team of educators and administrators can lead the academic enterprise that changes the lives of individuals, communities and the world," Trustee Melanie Foster said.
In addition to budget changes, many spoke during the public participation section of the meeting in defense of the MSU Swim & Dive.
Elena Emory and Erica Thibodeau also addressed the Board for their lack of support of survivors of Larry Nassar, specifically Trustee Brianna Scott.
"If I didn't know any better, I'd say that Trustee Scott is intent on using her role as a personal playground for her own financial gain," Thibodeau said. "I mean, why else would someone obstruct an independent investigation and sell their vote for some prime real estate?"
Scott said that that the attacks on her character are just repeated falsehoods against her character. Scott also said that neither Emory nor Thibodeau ever reached out to her personally to share their concerns.
"I would like to say to Elena Emory and Erica Thibodeau ... that you clearly have an agenda and are working on behalf of someone, who I have not yet figured out who that would be," Scott said. "You're pushing a false narrative that you claim, both of you, to be so impassioned about."
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It is unclear if Emory and Thibodeau are associated with MSU or are survivors of Larry Nassar. Stanley refused to comment on the identity of the speakers.
The Board of Trustees also approved the revisions to the faculty grievance policy and the contract terms between Michigan State University and Nordisch in which faculty member Roozbeh Dargazany holds a financial interest.
The meeting ended with an acknowledgment of the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of a vaccine mandate for students in the fall.
"We've discussed that a lot ... ," Stanley said. "I've really maintained the same position which is everybody should be vaccinated. That's the important thing and that's the key for people's success."
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