President Mary Sue Coleman said the UM-Flint campus must make changes “and they must be bold” if it is to survive the competition for a dwindling number of Michigan high school graduates seeking a college degree.
Coleman made her comments Sept. 22 during her final meeting of the Board of Regents as president. Santa J. Ono assumes the presidency Oct. 14.
Coleman said she and UM-Flint Chancellor Deba Dutta would meet with the UM-Flint community in a town hall setting Sept. 23. That meeting will come on the day that marks the 66th anniversary of the opening of the Flint campus in 1956.
In a recent message to the UM-Flint community, Dutta highlighted growth this year in new-student enrollment on the Flint campus for the first time in five years, but also said there is much work to do to sustain it.
“We must strengthen our institution through new programs and enrollment growth,” Dutta wrote, inviting faculty, staff and students to the town hall meeting.
The session is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the UM-Flint Riverfront Conference Center. Most of the strategic planning will be done during the fall and winter terms.
“Your engagement is essential. No decisions have been made,” Dutta said. “The process will be inclusive and transparent.”
Coleman said that as UM-Flint approaches its seventh decade, the campus “is facing unprecedented challenges.” Among those challenges are:
- Enrollment at UM-Flint is down 30% from 2014-15.
- Six-year graduation rates are the lowest of the state’s 15 public universities.
- The number of high school graduates across the state continues to decline.
“We must make changes, and they must be bold if UM-Flint is to thrive,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she has charged the UM-Flint chancellor with developing a strategic plan for transforming UM-Flint, which begins with the town hall meeting.
“It will be driven by comprehensive data, including labor and student market demand for academic programs. It is critical that the Flint campus align its programs with the needs of our state’s workforce,” the president said.
Coleman said it also is critical to have stable leadership for this process, noting she has extended Dutta’s current appointment as chancellor by two years, to June 2026.
“This will allow him to complete a transformation plan and put it into action. I fully expect that work will be carried out with a financial investment from the university,” she said.
Dutta thanked Coleman and the Board of Regents for their support, saying, “They have reiterated their confidence in the work we are doing to strengthen the foundation and move the Flint campus forward. Now is the time for us to work together and make the changes needed for the next 65 years of success.”
Coleman said she was looking forward to the Sept. 23 conversation with the UM-Flint community, which she will join virtually, and noted that Ono is aware of the challenges facing UM-Flint and fully supports this approach to make the Flint campus strong both financially and academically.