June 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

Wayne State raises tuition 3.2%

Detroit — Resident undergraduate students attending Wayne State University were hit last year with a steep tuition increase, but this fall costs will go up 3.2 percent.

The Board of Governors on Friday approved the 3.2 percent tuition increase as part of the $582.7 million operating budget.

The 2014-15 budget is 1.1 percent more than last year and includes investments in technology, renovations of the student center and $900,000 more in financial aid. The budget also no longer includes 75 faculty and staff positions, some of which were vacant.

“It’s a very responsible budget,” President M. Roy Wilson said. “Even with the tuition increase, we are below the average of Michigan public universities in terms of what students have to pay for 24 credit hours, which most of our students take.”

“It’s a balancing act,” Wilson continued, “between trying to have a few dollars for strategic initiatives, like continuing to make progress on our (student) advising, continuing to invest in public safety and our research while at the same time making budget reductions as necessary.”

The Board of Governors vote was 7-1, with board chair Debbie Dingell opposing the tuition increase.

“This institution continues to face many challenges,” said Dingell, who is also running for the Democratic nomination to the House in the 12th Congressional District. “We need to make sure our tuition is affordable for students ...I’m just concerned about our kids. They are graduating with debts that are just too high.”

A year ago, WSU hiked tuition 8.9 percent — the highest increase in years — but officials promised a similar boost wouldn’t happen again.

Then-President Allan Gilmour recommended the increase to address a dramatic drop in state aid during the past few years and to bring in extra revenue for the university to be more competitive.

The increase meant in-state undergraduate students this year paid $11,097 for a 30-credit hour load — $907 more than in 2012-13.

In the fall, tuition will go up two-thirds less than last year — $314 — to $11,411 a year. Meanwhile, financial aid will increase for the 87 percent of students who rely on it, bumping the university’s aid to $63.5 million annually.

“It’s an unfortunate but necessary increase,” said Chris Ehrmann, a WSU junior from Auburn Hills and the deputy managing editor of the school newspaper, The South End. “There has to be another source of revenue, and it’s a big source of revenue for the university.”

This year, Michigan universities are getting a significant bump in state funding. The Legislature this month approved $1.43 billion for higher education — a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year.

To get the full amount, universities could not exceed a 3.2 percent tuition cap set by the Legislature, which WSU did not.

This year is also the first time the Legislature is using Pell grants as a factor in determining incentive funding — money set aside that the state uses to encourage universities to limit tuition increases. WSU President Wilson lobbied for the change, which gives more aid to schools that have more Pell grant recipients.

Wayne State is the last of Michigan’s Big Three public universities to set tuition for 2014-15.

Last week, the University of Michigan increased tuition for resident undergraduates 1.6 percent this fall, meaning tuition will ring in at $13,158 annually.

At Michigan State University, freshmen and sophomores will pay 2.6 percent more in tuition and fees this fall, while juniors and seniors will pay 2.9 percent more.

The increase means full-time, lower-division undergraduates will pay about $13,200 annually to attend MSU next year, while upper-division students will pay about $14,708 a year.

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