President Floyd makes first presentation to Subcommittee on
Higher Education Appropriations
February 26, 1999
LANSING, Mich. -- WMU President Elson S. Floyd testified before
the Michigan House Subcommittee on Higher Education Appropriations
on Wednesday, Feb. 24. It was the first presentation before the
subcommittee by Floyd, who took office as WMU's sixth president
on August 1, 1998.
During his comments and responses to questions, the president
spoke on his commitment to
the citizens of Michigan, on the importance
of research and research universities to the state, on
the proposed new funding plan
for state universities, and on WMU's
future. The following are excerpts from Floyd's Feb. 24
testimony in Lansing.
On his commitment to the citizens of Michigan
- I am absolutely committed to ensuring that the dollars that
you entrust to us will be spent in a way that maximizes the value
we provide to the state and its citizens and provides the best
leverage of those dollars for the greatest possible benefit for
our students. Consistent with this, we are committed to affordability
and accessibility in higher education. To accomplish this, we
must be accountable to you and the taxpayers of this state for
every dollar that we spend. Everything that we do will be based
on this premise.
On the importance of research and research universities
to the state
- As a newcomer to this state, it appears to me that the economic
renaissance enjoyed throughout Michigan in the 1990s has resulted
at least in part because of the research done by Michigan's public
universities. I can tell you that was the case in my home state
of North Carolina. And Governor Engler is right: Michigan must
become the "smart state" to be a leader in the 21st
century, and the significant research conducted by the state's
graduate-intensive, research-oriented universities will help
lead the way.
Western itself has doubled its research and sponsored programming
over the last five years, and I promise you today that we will
do so again over the next five years.
- I am extremely proud to announce today that Western Michigan
University has met the criteria to attain Research II status
as outlined by the nationally recognized Carnegie Foundation.
Simply put, Western Michigan University is a research institution.
For comparison purposes, The University of Michigan/ Ann Arbor,
Michigan State University and Wayne State University are classified
as Research I institutions-the top classification level. Under
the criteria used by Carnegie for those and all other institutions,
Western Michigan University would be a Research II University.
I want to publicly thank the Governor and the Legislature for
the critical support that has helped WMU achieve this stature.
How fortunate we are in this state to have four institutions
that meet the current Carnegie Foundation standards.
- Western Michigan University, is truly a student-centered
research university. Western Michigan University is the 4th largest
University in Michigan-not only in current students, but also
in total graduates and funding for research and sponsored programs.
As I said before, Western Michigan University is a university
that encompasses excellence in teaching and excellence in research.
Our graduates are prepared to walk into their 21st-century jobs
with skills and capabilities needed by employers now and in the
future. We are also working with those employers to assist them
with improvements in technology and products and services, through
research and public service activities of our faculty.
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On the proposed new funding plan for state universities
- We welcome any attempts to find a fair and equitable approach
to higher education funding in Michigan. The Executive Budget
summary states, after all, that "universities that offer
similar programs and degrees should receive similar levels of
state funding." I agree with the Governor. Unfortunately,
this first attempt fails to accurately place some of the universities
in similar peer groups-including Western Michigan University.
The Department of Management and Budget embarked on a mission
to find a fair and simple way to categorize Michigan's universities.
The end result misses the goal of fairness, though, and it is
fairly complicated. While instructional costs are one piece of
the equation, that standard alone fails to fairly address special
needs of the five higher education institutions in the state
that conduct significant levels of research and have a broad
and complex range of graduate programs. Universities like these
five emphasize both research and instruction.
- With all due respect to Oakland University and the University
of Michigan-Dearborn, these institutions are not our peers. Both
of these fine institutions meet some very specific needs in higher
education, but their missions, student needs and programming
are far different than that of Western Michigan University. In
fact, when you compare research and sponsored programming, number
of doctoral programs and the number of doctoral degrees conferred,
we look similar to the University of Michigan, Michigan State
University and Wayne State University.
- Let me be very clear: We are not opposed to a funding formula.
We are not opposed to a tier system. We support a fair and equitable
funding system for all institutions. We will all better serve
our higher education mission if we can spend less time in Lansing
fighting every year for our share of the pie. We need to find
ways to spend more of that time looking for innovative ways to
educate our students in a manner that meets the future needs
of this state. I thank the Governor for his proposal. It's a
starting point that the Legislature can and should improve upon
in the coming months.
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On WMU'S future
- In response to your question on enrollment forecasts, Western
Michigan University is expecting modest growth over the next
three years. In the 1998-1999 school year, we realized a 12.5
percent growth in our freshman class, but declines in other areas
led to an overall growth of 2 percent. Western Michigan University
is not looking to grow just for the sake of enrollment growth
and the state revenue that has been tied to it, but we do anticipate
modest increases in the 2 to 3 percent range.
- You asked about our institution's mission and how enrollment
or programmatic changes planned for the next five years fit into
that mission. I love to talk about the mission of Western Michigan
University and my vision for the future. Western Michigan University
is a premier student-centered research university that will meet
any need in the state where we are best positioned to do so,
and where we can do so without duplicating existing programs.
We must be accountable in our efforts and do everything we can
to keep higher education affordable, accessible and relevant
to the overall needs of our state.
- Over the next five years, our research activities will continue
to flourish in educational leadership, engineering, health and
environmental sciences, just to name a few. We will be active
competitors in the education environment without wasteful duplication.
We will be second to none in aggressively pursuing new public-private
partnerships that will better leverage our public support and
create an even greater return on the state's investment. That
is my mission for Western Michigan University, and I look forward
to working with all of you in the coming months and years ahead
to carry it out.
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Media contact: Matt Kurz, 616 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA