Northern U Presidents Tell Panel Of Approps Shortcomings
This morning the presidents of the state's three northern most universities, Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan University and Lake Superior State University told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education of their unique offerings and appropriations challenges.
“The recent budget cuts at LSSU (Lake Superior State University) since FY 2002, budget cuts have decreased our base appropriation by almost 20 percent,” said Dr. Betty YOUNGBLOOD, president of LSSU. “Since that time, we've eliminated almost 20 positions. We've cut deeply into supplies and deferred maintenance.”
The testimony came before a House Higher Education Subcommittee chair who has introduced legislation to provide separate funding for the state's three research universities and a week after representatives from the big three universities testified in favor of separate appropriations.
Rep. Pam BYRNES (D-Chelsea) believes that when it comes to higher education spending, Michigan needs to follow the example of North Carolina * a view that Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM supports as well.
"I know it is a change, and that change is often difficult,” Byrnes told MIRS following the meeting. "But, I look at the emphasis that North Carolina has put on their research triangle. I would really think that Michigan could move forward by emphasizing those three universities."
Byrnes said the emphasis on Wayne State University, Michigan State and the University of Michigan isn't to deny the importance of Michigan Tech and Western "but to emphasize the special talent of those three at drawing talent internationally and nationally as well."
As a lawmaker who represents both the northern campus of the University of Michigan and Pfizer, Byrnes said that displaced Pfizer workers have told her the state is losing its talent base to other states * state's like North Carolina that reward research.
In remarks before the panel, Dr. Leslie WONG, president of Northern Michigan University argued that Michigan already has a stellar reputation when it comes to higher education. A reputation indicating that the system works.
“Michigan has a pretty successful higher education sector,” said Wong, who added in the old adage that if it isn't broken don't fix it.
Lake Superior State University President Youngblood told the panel that the three northern Michigan universities that testified today face unique challenges * challenges that the state's current appropriations process doesn't take into consideration.
One example, the Big Three already enjoy savings and advantages due to economies of scale in purchasing and operations. Youngblood told the panel that smaller universities face the same basic costs of operations, such as administration and building maintenance that the bigger U's do. However, for smaller universities the percentage of revenue going to basic costs is larger than it is for the bigger institutions.
“We are seriously challenged by the way Universities are funded in Michigan,” Youngblood told the panel. “Some universities can't achieve the same economies of scale that larger institutions can. Some states recognize that (in their higher education funding), but Michigan does not.”
Youngblood also noted that LSSU trades off in having the most Native American students in the state with the Big Three. LSSU's student body is roughly 5 percent Native American, a diversity Youngblood said the university values. However, she noted that the state hasn't been funding the Native American Tuition Waiver program, which means LSSU is absorbing those costs.
“This is funding that comes right off the top,” Youngblood said. “In the past four years for example, LSSU has exceeded state funding of the waiver by $1.2 million. That means $1.2 million of waivers that the state hasn't compensated us for.”