President Litynski testifies on higher education budget
April 9, 2003
KALAMAZOO -- In testimony April 2 in Lansing before the Michigan House Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Higher Education, Dr. Daniel M. Litynski, interim president of Western Michigan University, outlined the effects of proposed funding cuts on WMU.
Litynski argued for both the overall importance of higher education to the state's future and for the unique situation and contributions of WMU.
"Michigan's difficult economy is forcing an important set of decisions, a situation that is common in hard times," said Litynski. "Where do we place our resources to best accommodate current needs while planning for the best possible future? Do we eat the seed corn now, or plant it for the next crop? These decisions can affect our future competitiveness."
"Western Michigan University is arguably the most efficient university in Michigan," said Litynski, noting that an already 'lean' institution has few options if the state issues across-the-board funding cuts. He also noted that WMU is one of only four schools in the state in the Carnegie Foundation's highest category of doctoral-research universities, is a major partner in regional and state economic development and, despite these leadership roles, has historically been underfunded by the state.
The complete text of Interim President Litynski's statement follows.
I appreciate this opportunity to speak briefly with you about Western Michigan University and the collective challenge we face regarding state funding for our public universities during this difficult time. I want to focus on three issues:
1. The need for higher education in a knowledge-based world;
2. The unique nature of Western Michigan University, and
3. The particular challenges facing Western Michigan University and the state of Michigan in the future.
1. The Need for Higher Education in a Knowledge-Based World
The United States of America and the state of Michigan must have the very best creativity and innovation to compete in our world economically, politically, and militarily. The past one hundred years has seen the radical transformation of our society. We are now immersed in the knowledge age and have only to look in our homes or offices to see the results. The news each evening shows what technological innovation has done to the battlefield and to homeland security in the last 10 years. Our state has been a leader in our nation's transformation and our universities have played key roles. Western Michigan University has had an important part.
Success has always been dependent on creativity and innovation. But the evolution to the knowledge society of today has accelerated the pace of change. Today we compete with knowledge workers from around our planet. Customers and industries seek the best value wherever it can be found globally. How can we ensure that decision makers will choose the state of Michigan when they look to satisfy their information and product needs? The answer lies in our higher education system.
World-class knowledge workers and providers are the result of a quality educational system and want to continue interaction with it. The American higher education system has been most successful in seeding and nurturing creativity and innovation. The public universities of the state of Michigan have been a critical part of the economic and political strength of our state and of the nation. But as we begin a new century filled with promise and hope, our higher education system is being challenged by a rising demand for quality education and declining availability of resources.
Is Michigan on a highway to the future or a detour to the past? Michigan's difficult economy is forcing an important set of decisions, a situation that is common in hard times. Where do we place our resources to best accommodate current needs while planning for the best possible future? Do we eat the seed corn now, or plant it for the next crop? These decisions can affect our future competitiveness. Key questions include:
If higher education funding in this state is slashed by $160 million, what will be the impact on our students?
Will the budget reductions at the universities lower quality by a loss in individualized attention per student, less faculty, decreased programs, and lowered frequency of required courses so that citizens of Michigan will take longer to enter the work force? Will reductions endanger our accredited programs?
Will financial aid restructuring result in higher debt load, requiring students to work more hours, leaving less time for study?
Will the combination of internal cuts, reduced financial aid and higher tuition result in delayed graduation dates and ultimately make a college education less affordable and more inaccessible to the students who need it the most?
We all know that budget cuts are a necessity, but the impact of large numbers and percentages will significantly impact the futures of Michigan students and families and ultimately our competitive advantage. I hope we can find all possible ways to reduce the overall budget cuts, protect our most vulnerable students, and preserve the outstanding programs our citizens need to compete in the global marketplace.
The work of this subcommittee is difficult indeed. Just as every student's circumstance is unique, every university is different as well. Many of us have very different academic missions and offerings. State support has varied widely by institution; and the tier system first established in 1999, while not perfect, has helped provide a useful system for looking at higher education funding and some of the historical funding variances. With enrollment growth, tuition rates and state support per student varying widely among institutions, it may be time to examine our current funding strategy. We should manage our $1.5 billion investment of taxpayer funds for higher education fairly. Concurrently, universities must ensure that resources entrusted to them are spent efficiently and provide quality education for students. This requires tough decisions by both the members of this committee and all fifteen universities.
You have heard from many other University presidents about this situation. Please let me give you our perspective from Western Michigan University.
2. The Unique Nature of Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University is a unique institution. We are a great university with a proud history, a dynamic present and a bright future. We are unique in our excellence in three broad areas - Leadership, Scholarship, and Partnership. We have transformed significantly in the past twenty years so much so that many do not recognize us or understand how we have changed.
We are leaders in a broad spectrum of areas
We are one of only four universities in Michigan ranked in the Carnegie Foundation's highest category of its classification system for U.S. higher education and rank among the top universities in the nation overall;
We are student-centered in our scholarship;
We are creative and innovative in the classroom, our applied programs, external partnership activity, and in fostering collaboration in regional economic development;
We are most efficient and lean while delivering quality and value;
We are the fastest growing university and number almost 30,000
Of the several thousand educational institutions in the United States, Western is one of only 102 public universities ranked by the Carnegie Foundation in its highest research classification Doctoral/Research Universities-Extensive.
Of the four such institutions in Michigan (the others being the University of Michigan, Michigan State, and Wayne State) we are the only one to achieve this distinction without the benefit of a medical school.
Western Michigan University achieved this distinction because of breadth and quality
We offer academic excellence in 265 programs, 90 of which
are at the graduate level.
We are a national leader in a broad range of fields including: aviation, speech pathology and audiology, occupational therapy, allied health sciences, biomedical sciences, environmental studies, K-12 education, math and science education, preschool education, reading education, engineering, business and many more.
Our research activity ranks first among the 12 Michigan public universities without a medical school. Over the past three years WMU has generated a total of over $150 million in sponsored research. Our strengths and interests span the range from basic through applied research and prototype development. This enables us to be a resource for many industries in the state of Michigan and for federal agencies including the Defense Department.
We are the first major research extensive university to have wireless laptop computer connectivity across our entire campus. We offer extremely low cost coupled with high quality programs that result in value for our students, the communities we serve and the state of Michigan.
Our scholarship of teaching, learning, and research makes us unique in many ways. It will be 100 years ago next month that the Michigan Legislature voted to create a normal school on the west side of the state and several months later Western State Normal School was established in Kalamazoo serving the western part of Michigan.
As the fourth largest educator of teaching personnel in the nation, and the largest in Michigan, WMU remains committed to providing our public schools with innovative teachers and administrators. Much has changed in our first 100 years, but our commitment to students, a quality education and the needs of Michigan remains our foundation.
I came to Western Michigan University almost four years ago. It attracted me specifically because of its continual emphasis on student education, its innovative programs and processes, and its dynamic change and growth. I was also deeply impressed by the care, concern, and collegiality shown by those I came in contact with. I believe that the tradition of educating teachers has permeated all of the disciplines that have evolved over the years. In fact, there are members in the audience today representing our students, faculty, and staff. They make our university great, and I thank them for being present today to support their university.
Our Lee Honors College of approximately 1,200 students offers a uniquely enriched experience for students of many academic majors and disciplines. These top students have outstanding credentials and performance comparable to any other prestigious university in the nation.
Western Michigan University is unique in our partnerships with other educational institutions, government, and industry, especially in applied research and economic collaboration.
Our partnerships with government and industry are nationally recognized. The result of our research activities can be seen along US 131 where we have built our Parkview Engineering Campus. Co-located on this new home for our College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, is a 150 acre Business Technology and Research Park that is attracting life sciences, advanced engineering and information technology firms to the state.
The state capital outlay investment of just over $40 million has generated another $120 million in local investment from the city of Kalamazoo, local corporations and foundations, the regional economic development agency Southwest Michigan First, and some 12 corporate tenants.
Among these 12 business ventures are 5 from outside the state of Michigan. In the coming weeks, we hope to announce two new out-of-state life sciences companies that have decided to locate at our Park. In total, the WMU Business, Technology and Research Park has attracted more than one-third of all businesses located within the 11 Smart Zones around the state.
The net-effect is a 300 percent return-on-investment for the state of Michigan and an expanded business and tax base! The success of this university-led economic development project was highlighted by the Association of University Research Parks at their annual conference last fall. At the request of the association, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and WMU made a joint presentation on this model of partnership success.
Additionally, WMU partners with K-12, community colleges and other universities to meet the needs of Michigan. Western has innovative joint programs with several community colleges (Muskegon, Kellogg, Lake Michigan) and with colleges and universities around the globe. We are the first in Michigan to build a facility on a community college campus at Lake Michigan College to jointly serve the needs of the citizens of the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area.
3. Western Michigan University Challenges for the Future
Fastest Growing Quality and Value
Our record 30,000 student enrollment demonstrates that our
"student-centered research university" reputation is
spreading. WMU is among the 40 largest universities in the nation
and one of the two fastest-growing institutions in the state,
along with our West Michigan neighbor, Grand Valley State University.
In fact, over 1/3 of all the growth at Michigan's 15 universities
over the last four years has been at WMU and Grand Valley State
University. The full-time equivalent student count at our two
institutions has grown by over 6,000 students during this period.
Efficient, Lean, and Historically Under-Funded
WMU is very lean. Today, Western Michigan University is arguably the most efficient university in Michigan.
Based on House Fiscal Agency analysis of HEIDI data provided to this committee several weeks ago, our administrative/professional staff is the leanest per student among the 15 universities. Specifically, the average among all 15 universities is one administrative/professional staff member for every 23 students with a range of 1:10 to 1:57. Western Michigan University is the leanest with only one administrator for every 57 students.
Over the four year period referenced in the House Fiscal Agency analysis - a quick summary of HEIDI FTE personnel data clearly demonstrates that we continue to find operating efficiencies and invest in our academic mission at a time of record enrollments.
At a time when our enrollment has increased by more than 15 percent:
How and why have we done this? Western Michigan University has made numerous internal budget cuts in recent years and will continue to do so. In the last three years alone we have trimmed nearly $9 million from our budgets through privatizing certain activities, energy conservation measures, deferred maintenance, and other means. Over the last 12 years, WMU has made $19.4 million in internal budget reductions, thus avoiding approximately 29.2 percent in additional tuition and fee increases to our students. We instituted a hiring freeze earlier this year. Our dedicated faculty and staff continue to shoulder heavy workloads when compared to national statistics. Why we have done so includes conscientious management and decreasing state support per student.
We have aggressively pursued cost savings wherever and whenever we can. A lean organization can be especially vulnerable in times of budget reductions and we respectfully ask your consideration of this fact.
State support of higher education has steadily declined over the past thirty years. It has dropped from approximately 75 percent of the cost of educating a student to 46 percent of the cost of educating a student today.
This has been further exacerbated in the case of universities with growing enrollments by the fact that Michigan generally focused on historically-based rather than per-student based funding. Each university's annual budget is based on the past year's budget regardless of any changes in enrollment. Despite our position as the state's fourth research-extensive university, we receive less state support per student than seven other institutions and yet we have maintained a tuition and fee rate that ranks as the seventh best value in the state.
As a result, institutions meeting the growing student demand for higher education have experienced a decline in per student financial support. In the final analysis, we receive thousands of dollars less per student in revenue than the other Carnegie-ranked research extensive universities in the state and even less than many universities who are not in that category. In fact, our combined tuition and state appropriations revenue per student is almost 40 percent less than the average of our research extensive and tier colleagues. Our total revenue increase per student over the last four years (6.4 percent) was the smallest among the fifteen universities and well below the increase in the Detroit CPI over that same period (12.2 percent).
On a per student basis, Western Michigan University receives
significantly less state support than the average of our Doctoral
Research-Extensive and tier colleagues. This represents tens
of millions of dollars in historical funding inequities.
Financial Aid Increases for our Neediest Students Must Be a Priority
Only after looking at every possible cost-cutting option will we examine our tuition options. WMU has historically invested in our university-based financial aid by providing a matching percentage increase in financial aid equal to the increase in tuition. We will continue to do so in order to protect our most vulnerable families from rising tuition.
Additionally, we want to offer our support to a merit-based component to the financial aid picture. As the third largest recipient of merit scholars, WMU has seen the benefit of this program in its first two years.
Our Medallion scholarship program is one of the largest merit-based
scholarship programs in the nation. Since its inception in 1984,
more than 13,000 students have been awarded over $80 million
in privately raised funds. This has helped bring the best and
brightest to Western. They are a unique source of the creativity
and innovation we seek for this century of knowledge workers.
World-class knowledge workers and providers are required to compete in a knowledge-based world and are the result of a quality educational system.
Western Michigan is a great university whose leadership, scholarship, and partnership make us a unique contributor to the knowledge economy.
As WMU enters our second century of service to Michigan, we are proud of the rich history and unique qualities that have made us one of the 100 top public universities in the country and one of four Carnegie Research-Extensive Universities in Michigan. Our innovation has kept us responsive, lean, and conscientious stewards of the resources that Michigan taxpayers have entrusted to us.
We appreciate the many difficult decisions facing the legislature and the administration in the days ahead. We ask your consideration to reduce the magnitude of the impact of any necessary cuts as much as possible and provide maximum flexibility for the universities to manage their educational programs for the good of our citizens.
In return, we want to assure you that we have been, and will continue to be, good stewards of the public trust and treasure, and will continue to look for even more efficiencies in our operations.
We are sensitive to the needs of our students and will make all efforts to keep higher education as accessible as possible for the citizens of Michigan.
I look forward to the rest of our dialogue today and in the weeks ahead. Thank you for your support and advocacy of higher education during these challenging times.
Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org