Regents comments about U-M’s 2021-22 budget


June 17, 2021, Board of Regents meeting

Jordan B. Acker

There are a number of items in this budget I’d like to highlight, as I have been incredibly proud to work with this administration as vice chair over the last several months on it, and I look forward to voting for it. The first is the announcement of the Go Blue Guarantee at Flint and Dearborn. This is a major step forward for our campuses, and I want to congratulate the chancellors and President Schlissel for their excellent work in moving this forward. When we talk about the path forward to sustained success at our regional campuses, we’re on it. I look forward to approving other additional long-term sustainable projects at Flint and Dearborn that we can and must fund in order to keep up with the demands of higher education at our regional campuses. Make no mistake though, this is a gamechanger.

I look forward to seeing the continuation of the Labor Center at UM-Dearborn, which continues to educate thousands in the labor movement. I’m glad we could fund a commitment to continue its mission.

The second thing I would like to discuss is how happy I am that we are able to keep tuition stable for those receiving financial aid, while having a modest increase for those whose families can afford to pay. Coming out of (one of) the worst years in our university’s history, if not the worst year, I’m glad that we can continue with smart financial management while keeping U-M affordable for Michiganders.

Finally, it would be remiss of me at the end of this long year serving as vice chair to thank our outgoing chair, Regent Denise Ilitch. Regent Ilitch has been a rock of the university this year, and when called to go above and beyond as she has many times by President Schlissel this year, she has answered the call. I’ve seen up close what it’s like, and I can say that you’ve handled this position with coolness under pressure, with wisdom, with grace, with humor, and yes, a little wine. We are much, much better for your doggedness and perseverance. Thank you so much and I look forward to voting yes on this budget. 

Mark J. Bernstein

Three years ago, we made a promise to students that with outstanding academic achievement in high school you can attend our Ann Arbor campus no matter your family’s financial resources. Today, we take that promise one huge step further. And this budget overall — and of course the Go Blue Guarantee’s inclusion in it — is a big, big win for all of our students on all three of our campuses, in Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint.

The Go Blue Guarantee has been a big success in Ann Arbor, and today we are expanding it to our students on our Flint and Dearborn campuses. Expanding the Go Blue Guarantee, Mark, as you indicated is a significant increase in our investment in Flint and Dearborn. Most importantly, it’s an investment that’s focused on student retention and success on these campuses. Now, students from a majority of Michigan households have the opportunity to attend the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Michigan-Flint for free.

I want to thank President Schlissel, our chancellors Dutta and Grasso, Provost Collins, Amy Dittmar, all of their colleagues, all of my colleagues for their support of this expansion. This was a long and complex process. But most of all I want to thank our students and faculty on each of our campuses for their relentless and obviously impactful advocacy. This would not have happened without you.

Michael J. Behm

Thank you, Mark. I don’t want to repeat everything that Regent Bernstein said, but I wholeheartedly agree with his statement, and then, quickly, the Flint and Dearborn campuses are incredibly important to the university as a whole, and the extension of the Go Blue Guarantee to these hardworking and intelligent students is very well deserved. Thanks to President Schlissel and Chancellors Grasso and Dutta for working tirelessly to make a U-M education a reality for so many young citizens of the state of Michigan.

Paul W. Brown

I won’t be as eloquent as Regent Acker, but I wanted to thank everyone for their work on this budget, including the president, the staff, the regents, especially Regent Behm as chair of the Flint and Dearborn Committee. I’d also like to thank the students, the faculty, the staff and community that continues to educate and advocate for the important budget priorities. No budget contains everything that I or any individual or group would like, but I’m particularly encouraged by some of the investments that we have made in our employees and in Flint and Dearborn. In particular since I joined the board a few years ago, we’ve increased compensation for all employees, including the just announced $15-per-hour minimum wage on all campuses while increasing student aid. We created the committee on Flint and Dearborn, and particularly through the works of that committee, we’ve now extended the Go Blue Guarantee to Flint and Dearborn.

A few others that are particularly important, I think, mostly funded out of the $20 million commitment from last year, $11 million of which went to Flint to help create the College of Innovation and Technology with a $10 million grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation. Thank you. Expanded the Murchie Science Building, created six new endowed chairs, created the Urban Institute for Racial, Economic and Environmental Justice, the first ever institute at UM-Flint, completion of the program for adult non-completor populations. We’ve hired 10 new advisers, the highest student-adviser ratio in the country now at Flint. We created the Student Health and Legal Services on the Flint campus, and this year holding tuition at Flint at a 0 percent increase. And, of course, at Dearborn, besides the Go Blue Guarantee and the $15-an-hour wage, $9 million has been invested in Dearborn from last year’s commitment, increasing particularly important emergency funding to support students affected by any COVID-19 financial crisis. Funded the Dearborn Comeback Program, as Jordan mentioned, funding the Labor Center, and in particular enhanced student-peer mentoring program.

These investments represent great progress, and everyone involved should be very proud. But I wanted to say these investments over the last couple of years are an example of an ongoing focus and commitment, particularly to the success of Flint and Dearborn, and we must sustain that focus and investment. So again, I am proud to vote for this budget.

Sarah Hubbard

Thank you, President Schlissel. I really am looking forward to voting for this budget. It’s the first one in my time on the Board of Regents. I appreciate the collaborative process that everybody has gone through to get this thing done on time and without having any last-minute needs for special meetings. This is great. I really think this budget moves the university in the right direction with prioritization of support for students and families that live in Michigan funded in part with a modest increase in tuition. The increase we’re experiencing this year is certainly one that is keeping our costs in line and providing some restraint in our spending.

So I appreciate the effort to find those cost savings throughout the budget and expect our focus to continue to balance revenue needs with opportunities to build in spending efficiencies. The Go Blue Guarantee is amazing, and I hope we provide leadership to other public universities across the campus, across the nation, really, with our efforts there to extend that to Flint and Dearborn today and really to have it at all. So I look forward to having that final vote on this budget and working with you all going forward. Thank you.

Denise Ilitch

I wholeheartedly want to support a 0 percent increase for the majority of in-state students, and no tuition for more than a quarter of them. The last year has been very, very difficult for students. We have heard you and we have heard your parents. This budget recognizes that, with more funding to support mental health, including wellness coaching and greater access to counseling services. We have heard you on that. This is also a responsible budget, with strong cost containment measures in place.

I thank Provost Collins and her team for all of the work, really listening to her stakeholders, addressing all of the important issues … it’s fantastic.

I’d like to name just one example of when Provost Collins was talking about cost containment. LSA, which is our largest school, expects to save $1.8 million by shifting faculty salaries to endowed professorships. That really speaks to the strength and the generosity of Michigan supporters and our longstanding teamwork to drive academic excellence and affordability.

I do want to thank the budget team, the president, and the provost for really working at helping others in a way that I haven’t seen before with respect to the budget. My colleagues have really highlighted some of those. I also want to thank those who care and advocate strongly every day for their desires in a budget. Whenever there is a budget, there is always give and take. Some are happy, some aren’t, but we have really listened to you and we have strategized. I want to thank you for helping us solve the problem. We will continue to remain committed to Flint and Dearborn, and we will be laser-focused on that.

We’re really looking forward to getting back to a new normal. I just want to thank our stakeholders – our students, our parents, our employees, our staff. It has been an unprecedented year as has been indicted. I would advocate that we haven’t had a year like this in our 200-year history. Everyone has really risen to the occasion and shown great leadership.  People say that the real test of a leader is during adversity, and I think that the president, his team, our board have just done an outstanding job, as well as our students and parents that have had to live through it day to day, as well as our faculty. I am in full support of this budget.


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