The University Record, April 24, 1995

President works to set record straight on state appropriation

President works to set record straight on state appropriation

President James J. Duderstadt last week took a step toward setting the record straight on the state appropriations process for 1995-96, noting that "many media accounts of this activity have portrayed it incorrectly as a battle between the University of Michigan and Michigan State University."

Duderstadt told the Board of Regents that the U-M "does not oppose larger-than-average increases" for Michigan State, Wayne State and Grand Valley State universities.

Earlier this year the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee approved 3 percent increases for 12 schools, and a 7 percent increase for Michigan State, Western and Grand Valley, as requested by the governor. The committee, however, voted to withhold the U-M's three percent increase until the University reaches a 70/30 baldents.

Duderstadt said that since the recent economic recovery makes it possible for the state to increase appropriations, all should benefit.

"For the past seven years, the universities of this state have seen their appropriations increase at levels below inflation," resulting at the U-M in a loss in real dollars of more than $35 million over the period. "Having shared this pain, we believe all of our universities should share in a year when our economy is better."

Duderstadt said the University supports a proposal made by Sen. Joe Schwarz, chair of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, that would give 6 percent increases to 12 universities, including the U-M, also maintaining the 7 percent increase for Michigan State, Western and Grand Valley.

Duderstadt reminded the Regents of the increasingly smaller role that state funding has played in supporting higher education. In 1972, he said, the public universities received about 75 percent of their operating budgets from the state; this figure was about 55 percent last year.

"This year the Legislature and the governor have a chance to reverse this trend and help us hold to a modest increase in tuition. We hope that they can see beyond the easy characterizations of this debate--as if it were a football game--and adopt an appropriations budget that will serve all of the state's universities."

Duderstadt said the resident/non-resident enrollment issue "is a straw man. The correct focus ought to be on the number of state residents being educated."

He noted that, when compared with 1987, the U-M has had 302 fewer state residents enroll, with similar situations at Wayne State (328) and Michigan State (3,101).

"The declines at all three campuses have a simple demographic explanation. In the past decade, the number of students graduating from our state's high schools has declined by 250,000 students, or 15 percent.

"Despite that," he concluded, "the University of Michigan's role in educating this state's children has not changed in any meaningful way. Its commitment to continue to do so in the future is unwavering and strong. We are, first and foremost, a public university serving this state--and we continue to see that as our top priority."