General fund budget highlights increased financial aid, academic innovation


The University of Michigan will prioritize strategic investments in undergraduate education and increased access and affordability for Michigan residents in the coming fiscal year, according to the 2019 general fund budget for the Ann Arbor campus approved June 21 by the Board of Regents.

The budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1 includes continuing the Go Blue Guarantee, a free-tuition pledge for in-state students with a family income of up to $65,000, a benchmark roughly equal to the state’s median family income.

The guarantee went into effect Jan. 1, and this fall’s incoming class is the first to include students who made their decision about college attendance with the pledge already in place.

The university’s generous need-based financial aid program includes all in-state students with financial need, and typically includes Michigan families earning up to about $180,000 a year or more, depending on specific circumstances.

The $2.18 billion budget includes a 16.3 percent increase — or about $28.9 million more — in undergraduate financial aid funding. The boost brings the total budget for need-based undergraduate financial aid to $205.6 million.

The undergraduate financial aid budget has increased 12 percent per year, on average, over the past decade. This compares to an average annual growth rate of 3.3 percent for in-state undergraduate tuition.

“I am proud that next year’s University of Michigan budget continues our focus on important strategic investments that bolster our cherished priorities of academic excellence, affordability and societal impact,” President Mark Schlissel said. “I thank the regents for their consistent support of our work.”

In-state undergraduate tuition and required fees will increase by 2.9 percent to $15,262 for the most common lower-division rate. That’s $436 more than last year’s tuition cost.

This year’s additional investment in aid will offset tuition increases for most in-state undergraduates with financial need.

Comparable tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduates will be $49,350, an increase of 3.9 percent. Tuition and fees for most graduate and professional programs will increase by 3.3 percent.

The university also provides need-based financial aid to out-of-state students and meets full financial need for those students from families with incomes up to about $90,000 a year.

Aside from expanding financial aid opportunities, the general fund budget also carves out planned investments in key areas of undergraduate education, including academic support services, competitive salaries for lecturers and curricular innovation.

An example of innovation cited by Provost Martin Philbert at the regents’ meeting is an initiative to develop courses using augmented, virtual and mixed reality — or AVMR — technology to create immersive learning experiences.

“AVMR can give ideas and concepts shape and form, shifting the way that knowledge is captured and taught,” Philbert said.

Earlier this year, Philbert launched a task force that has been examining what it means to receive an undergraduate education at U-M, today and in the future.

The “Task Force on a Michigan Undergraduate Education in The Third Century” includes faculty from a number of disciplines and is focused on how the university can best prepare an informed, educated citizenry.

“As the university embarks on its third century amid a rapidly changing landscape in higher education, we must seek to understand how we deliver this vital service and how we might shape instruction and the undergraduate experience for the future,” Philbert said.

Other initiatives highlighted in Philbert’s report include:

• M-STEM Academies, a program that offers academic support, peer mentoring, tutoring and community to students from under-resourced high schools who intend to major in science, technology, engineering or math fields.

• New programs at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy focused on civil discourse and public engagement that will promote principles of thoughtful intellectual discussion and increase opportunities for students to directly apply their coursework to societal needs.

• The LSA Quantitative/Computational Social Science program to develop student proficiency in data-intensive analysis. The program would teach participants to harness data to model, simulate, and analyze social phenomena.

Philbert said the initiatives are just a few of the university’s many strategic investments that work to ensure student success, from mentoring to career services to programs targeting the needs of specific populations, such as veterans and first-generation students.

U-M’s freshman retention rate of 97 percent, and its six-year graduation rate of 91 percent are among the highest in the nation for public research universities.

The FY ’19 budget accounts for a significant pay raise for all university lecturers. The university is currently in contract negotiations with the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the bargaining unit which represents U-M lecturers.

Revenue includes an expected state appropriation of $320.8 million, up 2 percent; indirect cost recovery on research funding of $253.2 million, up 5.9 percent; and $1.6 billion in revenue from tuition and fees, up 7.2 percent.

Regents approved the budget measure on a 7-1 vote, with Regents Michael J. Behm, Mark J. Bernstein, Shauna Ryder Diggs, Denise Ilitch, Andrew C. Richter, Ron Weiser and Katherine E. White voting yes, and Regent Andrea Fischer Newman voting no.

Regent Ron Weiser said while he will continue to fight for reduced in-state tuition costs in the future, there were a number of reasons to approve the budget measure, including that the tuition increase still fell well below state-imposed tuition caps and the annual growth in the state’s median family income.

“I wish tuition was lower, but I understand the reasons for being where it is this year,” Weiser said. “I believe this year that voting for it is the responsible thing to do.”

Newman said she would vote against the budget because of tuition increases.

“There are many parts of the budget I support, but the area of difference is the tuition increase that makes it more and more difficult for middle class America to access education,” she said. “The Go Blue Guarantee, as wonderful as it is, is an expensive proposition.”

While other regents echoed concerns about tuition, they ultimately voted in favor of the measure.

“If I was voting on just the tuition increase, I think my vote would be a no,” Richner said. “But the budget process is a matter of compromise. At the end of the day, the university must have a budget.”

Diggs said she supports the budget, which she described as “a reflection of our values and priorities.”

“It supports our mission, although it does have some imperfections,” she said, adding the university’s offer of financial aid to families offsets a tuition increase. “I also appreciate the fiscal restraint, recognizing we have responsibility to taxpayers, of which I am one.”

The total FY ’19 operating revenue budget for the Ann Arbor campus — including Michigan Medicine, Athletics, University Housing, other auxiliary activities and programs supported by designated gifts and grants — is $8.9 billion.

The vote also included approving tuition and housing rates on the UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn campuses and a small increase in the student fee to support the University Health Service.

University Housing rate increases for operations, upgrades

Regents approved a 1 percent increase for Ann Arbor campus residence hall room and board rates for FY ’19 to keep pace with rises in day-to-day operating costs, such as food and utilities. Regents also approved an additional 2 percent increase designated for renovating housing and dining facilities.

This marks the ninth consecutive year of residence hall operating costs increasing by 1 percent or less. With eight residence halls still in need of major upgrades, the overall 3 percent increase will cover essential housing services while supporting future renovations and maintenance.

Rental rates in Northwood Community Apartments for graduate students and students with families will not increase for FY ’19.

The cost per student for a double room with a basic meal plan will total $11,534 for the fall and winter terms, an increase of $336. Need-based grant aid will mitigate this increase for students with financial need.

University Housing is a self-funded auxiliary unit of Student Life within the university. Over the past 10 years, University Housing has embarked on a program of substantial cost controls, reducing costs by more than $15 million.


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