Schlissel, chancellors describe collaborative culture for campuses


A key to the long-term success of the University of Michigan is allowing each of the three campuses to define its own needs, establish its own priorities and develop its own budget accordingly to promote student success.

That was the message President Mark Schlissel and the campus chancellors delivered at the Board of Regents meeting July 18 after Schlissel made a public pledge last month to evaluate and discuss the relationship between the Ann Arbor campus, UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint.

“The board, the chancellors, and I are always engaged in discussions about how to promote the longstanding excellence of each of our campuses and the success of our students,” Schlissel said. “And following the board’s guidance from when I was hired, we have worked to expand synergies that contribute to the unique missions and priorities of our three campuses — while respecting the independence of their faculties, budgets and leaders.”

In his remarks, Schlissel noted there are many ways the campuses collaborate, but said the distinct differences among campuses meet the needs of the individuals and communities they serve.

He encouraged attendees to visit U-M’s Public Affairs website to read a more detailed description of the relationship among the campuses, clarifications to some common misconceptions, and additional information that “highlights the extent of our work to keep tuition low and save taxpayer dollars on each of our three campuses.”

Each campus sets its financial aid priorities based on its own strategic needs and has grown its financial aid budget over the years. In Ann Arbor, the goals include increasing socioeconomic diversity, while in Dearborn and Flint, the goals include spreading financial aid more broadly, including more merit aid.

More than 94 percent of full-time, first-time degree-seeking students receive financial aid at Flint and Dearborn, while 65 percent receive aid at Ann Arbor.

UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego, who will step down when her current term concludes at the end of July, said she and her successor, Debasish Dutta, are committed to continue collaborating with Ann Arbor.

“I have spent my entire career addressing issues of student success, often on regional campuses, and one of the reasons I chose to come to UM-Flint was because of the resources — the endowment, compensation, scholarship dollars, faculty-to-student ratio — all are among the characteristics that were attractive to me,” Borrego said. “We continue to find ways to provide support and services for students and faculty.”

As part of a strategic planning process at UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint, the chancellors have worked broadly with their university communities to identify opportunities to strengthen collaborations, create new ones where appropriate, and foster enrollment growth, Schlissel said, adding that he would designate funds to “help jumpstart the strategic priorities identified by the chancellors and their campus communities.”

Much of that planning already is happening, according to university leaders.

“It is critical that each university campus be responsible for identifying its own needs and priorities and creating their own financial path to acquire and deploy resources as they see fit,” said UM-Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso, adding that his campus was “well underway” with its strategic planning efforts.

“Our community is best positioned and wholeheartedly committed to developing our strategic plans and initiatives for our unique community,” Grasso said.

Schlissel touched on faculty and staff collaborations across the three campuses, such as the Mcubed research seed funding program, as well as the “distinct advantage” enjoyed by UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint students seeking to transfer to the Ann Arbor campus. More than half of applicants from the two campuses transfer to Ann Arbor, compared with 39 percent for other institutions.

Schlissel also used his time to clarify misperceptions about each campus’ finances, including a claim that Ann Arbor has a half-billion-dollar budget surplus. He attributed the mistake to a misreading of the school’s financial statements that, for instance, incorporate revenue generated by providing patient care that must in turn be used for delivering patient care in Michigan Medicine.


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