The University Record, March 11, 1998
By Jane R. Elgass
Flint and the surrounding Genesee County have faced serious economic challenges in recent decades and are bracing for another round over the next few years as General Motors reduces employment in the area by 40 percent to 50 percent. U-M-Flint Chancellor Charlie Nelms sees the University playing a major role in helping the community through the crisis.
Noting that U-M-Flint "is one of the entities that¹s working extremely well in our city," Nelms told members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education in late February that "long-term education is the foundation for economic revitalization and improving the quality of life in Flint. This is true for K-16 education, not just post-secondary education," he said.
Nelms briefly detailed the success of a three-part strategic initiative that was launched three years ago:
Improving the quality of existing programs and services and expanding collaboration with the community.
Ensuring student accessibility and affordability. Flint remains one of the most affordable universities in the state. The number of scholarships available to high school students has increased and the campus offers a program for students in the top 10 percent of their class.
Flint has initiated a number of programs to increase enrollment of African American students and last fall enrolled the largest number of African American students in its history. Flint's budget request "addresses four key components of highest campus priority," Nelms said:
The University's critical role in economic revitalization of the area, specifically for the development of urban education initiatives, the Center for Applied Environmental Research and Outreach and development of the recently acquired property north of the existing campus.
Further development of the graduate program, a critical piece of the overall Academic Plan.
Expanded use of telecommunications technology and critical infrastructure needs.
Support for existing operations, both salary and non-salary, at the rate of inflation.
Nelms also touched on the funding inequity that is perpetuated when across-the-board percentage increases are applied.
"If you have a dollar and your colleague has 10 dollars and you each receive an increase of say 2 percent, you have both received the same percent increase but not an equitable increase. Simply put, providing a quality education takes money."
U-M-Dearborn Chancellor James Renick detailed four "critical budgetary requests for extraordinary needs."
Academic Programs. Program shifts, particularly in the professional schools and at the master's degree level, require the development of new interdisciplinary alignments and hiring of new faculty members.
Michigan citizens' educational needs are changing, Renick said, with a master's degree required in many fields and continued and continuing learning needed in all fields, "as the complexities of the workplace demand new knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of a global economy. In short, at U-M-Dearborn, we view learning as a lifelong process and are transforming our institution to meet this new reality," he stated.
New programs to meet the educational needs of working professionals have been established, prompting an immediate need for 10 new faculty members.
Information Technology. "The information technology infrastructure--including the campus backbone, classroom and campus access--must be significantly enhanced to provide an environment in which our students and faculty can use current and emerging technologies," Renick told the panel.
"Longer term, the campus must address the very real need for the continued upgrading and replacement of computers and network infrastructure, as well as ongoing training for students, faculty and staff. In this context," Renick said, "the campus needs base funding to ensure currency of its information technology infrastructure on an ongoing basis."
Campus Maintenance. "Deferred and ongoing maintenance and support of the campus physical plant will be an omnipresent need for the foreseeable future," Renick told the subcommittee. While a student fee for deferred maintenance generates slightly more than $1 million per year, "we now find that we will need close to $2 million annually for the next five years to reduce the deferred maintenance backlog and ensure that our buildings can continue to fulfill their intended purposes."
Partnership Building. There will be an increasing demand for collaborations, which "is at the core of our mission and the hallmark of an engaged, interactive university," Renick said. More than a dozen collaborative initiatives have been funded in recent years through reallocation of existing budgets and, increasingly, through private giving.
Dearborn is not requesting specific funding for these types of initiatives, but Renick told the panel that, "In the future, however, it may be prudent for the Legislature to consider reinstating the process of requesting, reviewing and funding institutional program review requests that are unique to particular regions or institutional missions."