EMU discusses cutting from sports, raising tuition

In the eighth forum in a series of budget forums at Eastern Michigan University since 2009, EMU officials spoke Wednesday about Eastern’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year, including raises in board and tuition as well as possible budget cuts.

John Lumm, chief financial officer and treasurer of the Board of Regents, said the university is also examining what they describe as business improvement.

“That includes looking at ancillary activities, auxillaries, a number of activities that have general fund dependence.”

One of the biggest parts of the budget discussed was the budget for the athletics department.

Due to low attendance at football and basketball games, the athletic department is failing to make a sufficient amount of revenue from ticket sales.

Tickets for men’s basketball games are currently only nine dollars with less than 1,000 people coming attending the games. According to Lumm, a simple increase in attendance to EMU basketball games, about 2,000 people per game, would generate $250,000.

“We are in a demographic area that has a lot of potential market for people to come, and that sport can make money to help support the rest of athletics,” Martin said.

“I know everybody doesn’t support athletics, but it does attract a student body here that are hiring a higher profile, that have a higher graduation rate.”

The decision to raise room and board by 2.15 percent was made partly in response to the state’s new higher education cuts.

President Susan Martin said many students have hoped to see a zero percent increase in the school budget again this year, but another budget freeze is doubtful to happen due to the states 15 percent reduction in higher educational funding.

“If we were to do zero this year, with this size of a state cut, we think that’s a 24 million dollar number,” Martin said. “I don’t think we can do that. I don’t think we can do that again, and I don’t expect to recommend that to the board.”

Part of the increase in board and tuition is due in an increase in schedule pay. Despite budget cuts, Martin said she would desire to see an increase in schedule pay.

“The board and I do not want to layoff people and we would like to do pay increases,” Martin said. “Certainly it’s the last thing we want to do but I think that we will probably have to have some lay offs to balance this budget.”

Lumm said additional reasons for the increase include state cuts to higher education, financial aid and rising food cost.

“The challenge for us is to find the right balance of tuition and fee increase and cost savings that get this budget balanced,” Lumm said. “No one wants to raise tuition without having gone through a thoughtful robust process of, ‘what are the alternatives?’”
The possible tuition raise would also be a result of the construction cost of the Mark Jefferson complex.

“It’s not that big a deal” said freshman Steven Wolverton, an undeclared major.
Wolverton sees the raise as being necessary to pay for the Mark Jefferson construction.

“I had classes in the old Mark Jefferson and I’ve already had class in the new one and it’s substantially nicer.”

Another budget forum is scheduled to take place within the next month.

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