Executive Summary

Executive Summary

Serving approximately 270,000 students annually, the state’s 15 public universities serve as integral partners with government, business and industry, and the philanthropic and non-profit sectors to build a better Michigan. They are public institutions serving the public interest.

The high quality and global reputation of Michigan’s public universities are rooted in the state’s unique form of higher education governance. State constitutional autonomy granted to the universities allows the gubernatorial-appointed and popularly-elected governing boards of these institutions to ensure strong accountability and stewardship of university resources and programs.

Representing the collective views of the state’s public universities, the policy statements presented in this Michigan Higher Education Public Policy Agenda represent a guiding framework within which these institutions can successfully fulfill their missions while ensuring public accountability, academic quality, research excellence, and fiscal integrity. The statements are tailored to Michigan and its unique policy-setting context and are reflective of contemporary issues in the state’s public policy domain. This guide to state-level higher education policy issues can serve as a resource for ensuring that Michigan’s 15 public universities continue their historic achievements in shaping the state’s rich legacy while fully realizing the promise of its future.

Sound public policy and sustained fiscal support for Michigan’s state universities take on even greater importance in 2021 and in the years to follow. As with all other aspects of society, our economy, and our state’s educational ecosystem, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severely detrimental impact on the state universities.

In response to the pandemic, these institutions harnessed all of their resources—physical, scientific, health and medical, and intellectual—to work with the State of Michigan in an effort to minimize the damage the disease has had and continues to have on our people, our communities, and our economy. They strived to continue delivering high-quality instruction without interruption, utilizing multiple modes to ensure that Michigan’s talent pipeline, especially those in the medical and healthcare sectors, continues to be filled. The fiscal impact of the pandemic has been profound. Expenditures to ensure the health and safety of all who touch campus, reductions in enrollment, and plummeting revenues from campus auxiliary units have required tremendous sacrifice through spending reductions.

Higher education is critical for the long-term future of the State of Michigan. The goal of promoting an educated citizenry is foundational to the success of our economy now and in the coming decades. The pandemic has disrupted the lives of all in our state, including current college students, tens of thousands of high school students and adult learners who are eager to start or resume their higher education experience. Students from every part of our state, with differing backgrounds and opportunities, are pursuing an educational experience and gaining the tools and skills necessary to support themselves and their families and contribute to their communities. Higher education is critical for the long-term future of the State of Michigan.

Higher Education State Policy Priorities

College Affordability

State Operating Support

  • Increase state operating support for Michigan’s public universities to maintain college affordability.
  • Promote a state higher education funding model that provides sufficient, predictable and sustained public university operating support.

State Performance-based Funding

  • Involve all 15 public universities in any discussions about how to systematically allocate state appropriations to institutions if a performance-based funding formula is utilized in the future.

State Need-based Student Financial Aid Programs

  • Increase state investment in need-based student aid programs that promote access for low-income students.
  • Boost, through new investment rather than redirection, the share of state financial aid directed to students attending the state’s public universities.

Tuition-Setting (Tuition Caps/Tuition Price Controls)

  • Eliminate the use of legislatively-imposed tuition price controls, which harm Michigan’s public universities’ ability to maintain affordable net costs of attendance, to strategically invest in programs designed to boost student outcomes, and to make other strategic investments.
  • Reinforce recognition that full authority in setting tuition policy at Michigan’s public universities is best determined locally and is the constitutional responsibility of the governing boards of these institutions. 

Capital Outlay and Asset Preservation

State Investment in Campus Facilities and Infrastructure

  • Support a state capital outlay process that is conducted annually, is consistent and predictable, and provides the public investment needed to ensure continued world-class academic programs and applied research at Michigan’s public universities.
  • Reinstitute state payments for infrastructure, technology, equipment, and maintenance at university facilities, helping these state institutions lengthen the lifespan and functional utility of the state’s investment for many more years.

Student Success

Rigorous Postsecondary-aligned K-12 Education Standards

  • Promote state-led collaboration among all stakeholders along Michigan’s elementary, secondary, and postsecondary education continuum to ensure that academically rigorous standards are available to guide instruction for all K-12 students.
  • Ensure that any changes to statewide student assessments are only done with the involvement and input of the state’s universities.

Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

  • Promote collaboration among institutions and state officials to strengthen collegiate teacher preparation and professional development programs.
  • Caution against using student test scores in evaluating teachers, and teacher preparation and professional development programs.

Collaboration versus Duplication as the Model for Michigan Public Higher Education

Community College Bachelor’s Degrees

  • Oppose legislation that authorizes Michigan’s community colleges to offer four-year degree programs.
  • Reinforce the respective and distinct missions of the state’s public universities and community colleges and promote continuance of the historical model of programmatic collaboration, not duplication, between the two higher education sectors.

Seamless Student Transfer

  • Support voluntary efforts to refine a streamlined, simplified and transparent process by which students can ascertain the transferability of credit-bearing courses from and among the state’s community colleges and its public universities.
  • With an emphasis on two- and four-year degree program alignment and the maintenance of rigorous academic standards, promote recognition that final determination on discipline-specific credit acceptance lies with university departmental faculty.

Campus Safety

Campus Sexual Assault

  • Ensure that any state legislation that seeks to address issues related to campus sexual assault complements existing or impending federal legislation and is grounded in the following principles: respect for the wishes of the victim, proactive support to students, and fairness for all involved in a given incident. In addition, such legislation should maintain the longstanding educational nature of the university discipline system.

Guns on Campus

  • Oppose state legislation that seeks to diminish or eliminate institutional authority to regulate guns on campus.

Unfunded State Mandates

Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver

  • Advocate for the state to fully fund its mandated Michigan Indian Tuition Waiver program.

State Reporting Burdens

  • Reduce unfunded state reporting activities.
  • Streamline state reporting requirements to eliminate wasteful duplication of efforts.
  • When state policymakers are considering new reporting requirements, universities should be involved at an early stage to ensure that the desired information is possible to collect and data elements are clearly defined.

Academic Governance

Institutional and Faculty Expertise on Academic Matters

  • Educate stakeholders on the benefits of the principles of academic freedom.
  • Oppose state efforts to micromanage academic decisions regarding admissions criteria, the faculty, curriculum and instruction at public institutions.
  • Oppose legislative interference with research and the academic peer-review process.

Campus Free Speech

Continue the Uninhibited Diversity of Thought, Speech, and Expression

  • As enshrined in the Michigan Constitution, ensure university governing board oversight of campus free speech policies in protecting First Amendment rights.
  • Oppose state legislation that seeks to place mandates on institutional campus free speech policies.

Institutional Governing Board Authority over Campus Operations

Board Oversight of Fiscal, Personnel and Operational Issues

  • Promote understanding and recognition among stakeholders of the authority governing boards have over public university strategic and operational matters.