Eastern Michigan University president Susan Martin and chief financial officer John Lumm held the first of four budget forums at the Student Center auditorium last Thursday.
The forum, which gave an overview of the fiscal year 2010-11 budget overview, was open to all students, faculty and staff for the purpose of transparency and better understanding of EMU’s budget, budget processes and financial position.
After the excitement of 0-0-0 initiative, it was time to make sure the budget was in balance and hope the zero percent increase would sustain the University through its tenure.
Lumm talked about the zero percent increment and why it is good for students and the university likewise.
“The administrations were ready to take action as soon as the Board of Regents made their decision,” Lumm said. “We figured we might be able to convince the board for a zero percent increment for room and board, but the problem was the tuition. But when we saw the number of enrollment for the fall semester, we figured we might be able to do the same for tuition. The purpose of the increment is to bring in more students and most importantly keep our current students.”
Lumm said the budget assumes a 3.4 percent student credit hour growth and 3.1 percent reduction in state funding.
“We hope the reduction in the state’s appropriation would not be greater than 3.1 percent,” he said. “State funding has fallen drastically over the years. Between 2001-2010, it has fallen from 54 to 27 percent, so at this point we rely on tuition and fees for funding. The zero percent increase was a manageable risk and we have some contingency plans in place on some capital plans we defer spending.”
President Martin also talked about the zero percent increment and why the advertisement circulated really fast.
“Although we were very nervous before the decision was made, we had made eventuality plans for advertisement which would have been a waste of money if the board voted otherwise, but we are glad they voted in support of the 0 percent increment,” Martin said.
Lumm then analyzed the budget for 2010-11, which totaled $280.9 million.
“As previously said, the greater chunk of our revenue comes from tuition and fee which is 71 percent, state appropriation is 27 percent and others such as rent account for 2 percent of the general funding,” he said. “On the other hand, our major expense is salaries and fringe benefits, which accounts for 66 percent of the budget. Other expenses such as SS&M [supplies, services and material], financial aid, facility related and others are 11 percent, 11 percent, 8 percent and 4 percent respectively.”
Most students loved the idea of zero percent increment on board, room and tuition, but expressed disapproval in the way the funds were being disbursed.
Sherifa Bilbeisi and Racheal Ziebro, both grad students expressed their views on the budget.
“Honestly, whoever wants to pay more when you can pay less? Bilbeisi said. “So I am sure I speak for every student when I say the 0-0-0 is a great idea.”
“It is a great idea, but it really doesn’t affect me at this point because I‘ll be graduating in no time,” Ziebro said. “One thing I have against them is the sport facility. I got mad when they wasted money on something nobody knows us for. Sports is something we are not good at, so why waste money on it? Better use of the money would have been for more parking space or maybe a new science building or something of its kind.”
Psychology major Will Caldwell also expressed disapproval on the sport facility.
“I believe the sports facility is not something the school should be putting money on anytime soon because even though almost everything is free there, still nobody goes to watch their games,” Caldwell said.
“I also realized the school had a picnic in celebration of the zero percent increment. This is all I am saying, don‘t raise tuition and don‘t waste money on picnics. Anyway it’s all good, especially for the 0 percent increment because I want to pay less, and also, I think the school is looking out for the students coming and the ones they have likewise.”
Laura Wolfe, a junior elementary education major, thinks the idea is a good one, but a few more changes would sweeten the deal for students.
“I think it’s pretty cool because it shows the school really cares about their students,” she said. “I think one strategy they should adopt is lowering dorm [costs] for freshman because the more people you have living on campus, the better it is for the university and by this we have more people attending the sporting events on campus.”
Pam Sieting believes more should be done about the academic advising here.
“I think we should have more advising and if possible each person should be assigned an advisor,” she said. “Nevertheless I am loving the zero percent, go Eastern.”
Constance Clark, a sophomore, thinks the zero percent increment is irrelevant.
“I think EMU is wasting money on some minor things and construction such as the new cement they are trying to fix in front of the library, the hot tub at the Rec/Im and a lot of things like that. And why should we be living on campus and have to pay a lot? So, from my view the whole excitement about the increment is irrelevant but if it was a decrease, like negative two percent, now that would have caused for celebration.”