UM-Dearborn affirmed its commitment to student success, more equitable wages and sustainability efforts in its $170.2 million general fund operating budget for fiscal year 2024.
The Board of Regents approved the spending plan June 15.
Prior to the board’s vote, UM-Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso highlighted several important investments that will move the campus forward, among them purchasing energy from sustainable sources to reduce the campus’ carbon footprint.
Grasso said the university’s budget includes creative and meaningful ways to reward faculty and staff, while also honoring a commitment made by all U-M campuses to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
In addition, a more than 6% increase in need-based financial aid will help improve access to higher education for southeast Michiganders, assisting a state of Michigan goal to have 60% of residents obtain a college degree or certification by 2030. More than $28 million is designated for financial aid in UM-Dearborn’s FY ’24 budget.
The budget includes several programs that help high-achieving, underrepresented students access a college education. They include the Go Blue Guarantee, a free-tuition program for low-income students that was expanded to include UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint in 2021.
Approximately $6 million in aid has been awarded at UM-Dearborn through the Go Blue Guarantee. Nearly 900 students had their tuition and fees fully covered during the 2022-23 academic year.
Faced with declining numbers of graduating high school students in the state and uncertainty around inflation and state funding, UM-Dearborn officials said they are cautiously approaching the next fiscal year.
Bryan Dadey, vice chancellor for business affairs, said the budget was based on the university experiencing flat enrollment growth and a 4% increase in state appropriations.
The budget includes a 6% increase in financial aid, a 1% across-the-board merit increase for employees effective Sept. 1, and funding commitments to bargained labor and minimum-wage agreements.
Dadey said the plan also includes a 4.4% tuition increase for full-time, in-state undergraduate and graduate students, equating to $312 and $396 increases, respectively, per semester. This increase falls below the latest Higher Education Price Index and the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ annual inflation rate of 5.2% and 4.9%, respectively. Non-resident tuition will increase by 6%.
“The campus budget is one of the most complex and difficult tasks to develop and administer. Consistent with my commitment to shared governance and transparent and inclusive decision-making processes, I sought input from the Faculty and Staff Senates and senior leaders. There was much thought, analysis, discussion and debate leading up to today’s announcement,” Grasso said.
“UM-Dearborn has fared well considering the pandemic, state K-12 demographics, national anti-college narratives and other factors not in our control. The budget is balanced, aligns with our mission and is the best plan forward for our university. What we can control, we are doing well.”
Dadey acknowledged some items in the budget, such as the 1% wage adjustment, may come as a surprise when there is typically a 3% base merit pool increase. He pointed out that the university absorbed a 10-14% health insurance premium surge over the last year. He also said the university wanted to keep the tuition increase for in-state students under the inflation rate, so there was a need to explore creative ways to reward employees for their dedication.
Among these, Grasso said, UM-Dearborn will reduce campus operations during holidays this year to allow faculty and staff to enjoy additional paid time off. The campus will close the week of Nov. 20 for Thanksgiving and on Dec. 21 and 22, in advance of the university’s season days.
There also will be consideration of an additional 2% salary increase based on financial performance indicators. Any additional increase would be evaluated in October and effective Jan. 1.
“Adding additional paid time off for all faculty and staff is a small, but meaningful, expression of our appreciation for our faculty and staff’s commitment to our students and the great work completed over this past academic year,” Grasso said.
The additional campus shutdown days also will help UM-Dearborn’s carbon footprint. Other areas where campus has reduced carbon emissions include extensive lighting retrofits, demand control ventilation and occupancy sensors. Assessments currently underway include solar panels and a Smart Labs initiative in campus research spaces.