WMU trustees vote to freezes tuition, housing costs to support students in response to pandemic

Contact: Paula M. Davis

KALAMAZOO, Mich.— In the academic year that begins this fall, Western Michigan University students will not see an increase in tuition or room and board pricing under a Board of Trustees-approved plan to freeze rates at the current year's levels.

Given the unpredictable environment and financial strain caused by the coronavirus outbreak, University officials say they want to create certainty for students around the cost of their education and demonstrate that WMU remains committed to affordability.

Typically, the University's governing board would set tuition in June, when there's more clarity around state funding. But, before this current academic year concluded, leaders felt it was important for students to know what to expect in 2020-21. The spring semester ends this week, as does the regular academic year.

"It is our responsibility to be careful and responsible stewards of the financial resources entrusted to us by our students and their families as well as the state's taxpayers. We simply cannot continue to operate at anywhere near business-as-usual," President Edward Montgomery said. WMU's first source of revenue—72%—comes from the tuition and fees that students and their families pay.

"The strains on their budgets are growing," he said. "As a student-centered university, we must respond to their challenges accordingly. That’s why we are pleased to recommend that the board freeze tuition as well as room and board rates."

WMU itself is under financial strain as a result of the nationwide economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus. The outbreak's economic impact has created severe budgetary challenges for higher education institutions across the state and nation.

At Thursday's meeting, the president outlined those challenges for WMU, including more than $45 million in losses due to the crisis this year thus far and a projected $45 to $85 million in additional losses next fiscal year.

WMU is developing a range of strategies to navigate and overcome the downturn. Early on, the president’s cabinet forfeited two weeks of leave or more each. Today, they went further with a 10% pay cut for all senior executives—the president, each vice president, General Counsel, Chief of Staff and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics. In addition, all associate and assistant vice presidents, associate provosts and vice provosts, and deans will take a 5% pay reduction.

These are just the beginning of additional actions that will be required to safeguard and maintain the vibrancy and future of WMU as a student-centered institution.

"We will be strategic and continue to focus on short- and long-term needs as we move forward," Montgomery said. "Western Michigan has faced major challenges before over the past 117 years, whether it was the Great Depression, the Great Recession or numerous other challenges. We have risen to each of these challenges, invigorated by our mission: 'So that all may learn.' I am convinced we can and will do so now."

For a complete breakdown of 2020-21 tuition and required fees as well as room and board rates, visit wmich.edu/trustees/agendas-minutes.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.