The University Record, November 26, 1997

U asks state for 4 percent increase plus $4.5 million for learning communities, life sciences initiatives

By Jane R. Elgass

The University will ask the state for a 4 percent increase ($12.6 million) in its annual appropriation and an additional $4.5 million to fund two new initiatives. The Regents approved the request at their meeting last week. The 4 percent increase is a continuation of the rate of increase the U-M has received in the past two years, allowing it to hold tuition increases to 3 percent in 1996­97 and 2.9 percent in 1997­98, the lowest increase rates in 12 years.

In her presentation to the Regents on the appropriations request, Provost Nancy N. Cantor cited the importance of state support and noted the recent action on the capital outlay bill that will permit needed renovation of several academic facilities, including the Frieze, Perry and LS&A buildings; Mason and Haven halls and a portion of West Hall.

The additional funding in this year's request would support expansion of undergraduate learning communities ($1.5 million) and a $3 million initiative that would promote interdisciplinary education and research in the life sciences.

Learning communities initiative

As the University has renewed its emphasis on undergraduate education in the past few years, increasing attention has been paid to life outside the classroom and laboratory and the need to better integrate those two parts of students' lives. Parents and students alike express concern about the anonymity that might result from being part of a large, complex institution.

The U-M already boasts several very successful learning community programs, including the Residential College and the Lloyd Scholars programs, the more recent Women in Science and Engineering and the 21st Century program. About one-half of entering students participate in these programs.

This initiative will support the creation of additional programs, which by their very nature must be relatively small, to accommodate more students. It also will help ensure the continued quality of existing programs and help support the involvement of more tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Life sciences initiative

This initiative is designed to focus resources on existing programs and developing new programs in emerging areas, most of which are interdisciplinary in nature. Fields such as chemistry, engineering and psychology continue to be mainstays of the curriculum, joined by emerging fields‹neuroscience and structural biology, for example‹that lead to new areas of inquiry and new collaborations.

Funding of the initiative will enable the University to create closer links between the professional health sciences units and units in LS&A and the College of Engineering, benefiting research collaborations and graduate programs and affecting undergraduate education.

A primary goal of the initiative, which builds on the success of the Women in Science and Engineering and Undergraduate Research Opportunities programs, is to increase opportunities for the involvement of undergraduates with faculty from the health sciences schools in the classroom by offering new courses and majors.

Funding of the initiative also would support greater use of technology in instruction, requiring additional investment for equipment, facilities, the development of appropriate instructional materials, faculty training and ongoing technical support.