Michigan universities begin wave of tuition hikes

Michigan universities begin wave of tuition hikes
Thursday, June 18, 2009

Michigan universities begin wave of tuition hikes: MSU expected to pass 5% increase; U-M votes today

Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News

East Lansing -- Already $70,000 deep in student loan debt at Michigan State University, Darin McKnight can't afford higher tuition bills this fall.

"Since (tuition) has been increasing so much, I've had to get more and more loans, which makes it a little harder for my family," said McKnight, 22, a packaging engineering senior.

MSU's board will decide tuition Friday and University of Michigan will vote on rates today, which kicks off a tuition-setting season that has been complicated by federal stimulus dollars, a proposal to eliminate state merit scholarships and a recession that has rocked thousands of students and their families.

President Lou Anna K. Simon said MSU will increase tuition around 5 percent and give the one-time federal stimulus dollars to the students as a credit on their bills, pending board approval. Details of the plan are expected to be released today.

Public universities are expected to receive $63.2 million in stimulus dollars that will help backfill all but 0.4 percent of a state cut to university operations. MSU's share would be $7.9 million, under the latest budget bill.

"Our strategy will be to return as much stimulus money to the students because they need to benefit from it," Simon said. "But they need a stable Michigan State at the end of the stimulus money. We are trying to balance those two issues."

Accepting federal stimulus dollars means universities agree to "mitigate" tuition hikes to the extent possible.

"I think tuition is going to be within a moderate range, somewhere in the 5 to 6 percent range," said Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which represents the 15 public universities. "Every institution is making cuts right now in the 10 percent range."

U-M has been under pressure from a coalition of students, called "Stop the Hike," to freeze tuition if state funding is stable.

After meeting with regents, members believe a tuition hike is inevitable.

"Maybe our main goal of freezing tuition won't be accomplished but the regents really did put a lot of thought into keeping tuition low," said Alex Serwer, a U-M junior from Franklin. "I really hope ... when they vote (today), they realize their vote really affects students and their families."

U-M President Mary Sue Coleman said today's tuition proposal would be a reflection of cost-cutting measures, an increase in financial aid and efforts to improve quality.

"We've put together a budget that I feel is really responsible in these really tough times," Coleman said.

mschultz@detnews.com (313) 222-2310

Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 (Archive on Tuesday, September 01, 2009)
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