Wayne State University's Board of Governors today approved a $576 million operating budget for fiscal year 2014, a 1.7 percent increase. This included a tuition increase of $904, or 8.9 percent, for a resident undergraduate taking 30 credit hours.
"This year's budget decision has most the most difficult since I joined the board," said Debbie Dingell, chair of WSU's Board of Governors. "The State has decided higher education is not a high priority, despite our business community recognizing that research universities are a primary engine for the state's economic growth. We have to face the limitations of our basic funding source – student tuition. The university must, under the strong leadership of our new President, make difficult decisions about the future, including: Are there things more or less important to our diverse mission, and are there things that, while valuable, we cannot afford to keep doing given the current reality?"
Dingell continued, "Wayne State is a university of opportunity and a research university, but we don't have the resources of Michigan's other major research universities, or the benefit of many non-resident students paying out-of-state tuition. We have already cut our budget as far as we can—more than $19 million for this budget and $50 million over the past three years."
"Our job is to ensure that Wayne State remains a quality institution and a strong state asset, so we must invest—now—especially in areas that help our students become more successful," added Gary Pollard, chairman of the Board Budget and Finance Committee. "A majority of the board felt there was no other choice than to raise tuition."
Following a 15 percent cut in state appropriations two years ago, Wayne State will have received the lowest percentage increase in state funding among Michigan's public universities this year for the second year in a row.
"The current system of determining increases in state appropriations hurts universities like Wayne State that serve non-traditional students," said WSU President Allan Gilmour. "That is unfortunate, because Wayne State is a valuable asset to Michigan in many ways. We graduate thousands of students every year—most of them Michigan residents who stay in Michigan to live and work. We contribute to economic development and advancement of knowledge that help everyone. And Wayne State serves a unique role in Michigan as a major research university that is also a university of opportunity. It is more than worth the investment of students and the State. And if State funding had kept pace with the overall Consumer Price Index over the past decade, our tuition rates could be 44 percent lower."
Wayne State has a history of low tuition relative to Michigan's other public universities, especially for one of the top research universities in the country. Even after the tuition increase, WSU's full-time undergraduate freshman tuition ranks fifth among Michigan's 15 public universities (based on 30 credit hours), and is far lower than Michigan's two other major research universities, Michigan State and the University of Michigan.
"We understand it costs a lot to attend college, and every increase hurts," added Gilmour. "But we need to do this now, and we believe Wayne State—a major research university—remains a good value and a solid long-term investment for our students, and also for our State. We serve Michigan students. 94 percent of our students are Michigan residents. If we had the same ratio of out-of-state students as Michigan State, we would have an additional $74 million in tuition revenue."
To mitigate tuition increases for those needing financial assistance, Wayne State will increase its financial aid by $6.2 million, or 11 percent, this year. With this increase, its institutionally funded financial aid is now $62.2 million, a 231 percent increase since 2002, and a 78 percent increase since 2007. More than 80 percent of all WSU undergraduate students receive some type of need-based or merit-based financial aid.