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Wayne State med students protest proposed tuition hike

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Wayne State University medical students are protesting a proposed tuition increase amid COVID-19 that is scheduled to be considered Friday by the Board of Governors.

If approved, the proposal would increase tuition by 4.5% for in-state students and by 2.5% for out-of-state students. Current rates are $34,039 for Michigan residents and $61,414 for nonresidents.

A lone student passes the undergraduate library at Wayne State University in Detroit, which is all but empty on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

The proposed hike comes as most universities are facing budget shortfalls due to COVID-19 and are taking measures to cut expenses, including Wayne State.

The WSU School of Medicine Student Senate sent an email this week to board members outlining opposition to the proposed tuition increase.

"The timing of this potential tuition increase is questionable," said the letter, obtained by The Detroit News. "In-person learning is not currently possible for students, and clinical rotations have largely switched to virtual platforms. While many of these resources provide excellent clinical scenarios and training, they cannot replace rounding in hospital wards nor procedures in an operating room."

The letter continued: "Student tuition directly funds these clinical experiences. To fiscally demand more of students when the clinical experiences are uncertain warrants extensive justification, and without such justification, cannot rightfully occur."

The letter also said if this proposal were to pass, the Class of 2021 "will have experienced two separate tuition increases during their four years of medical school."

"This would result in a cumulative increase in tuition of 7.5%," the letter said. "However, perhaps most distressing is the minimal notice surrounding the vote on said proposal scheduled for this Friday, May 1st. This incredibly quick turnaround time does not facilitate the student body’s ability to have thoughtful discussion and feedback with you all."

Dr. Mark E. Schweitzer, dean of the Wayne State School of Medicine, wrote a letter this week to medical students explaining the proposed increase, saying "there have been stresses related to the quality and quantity of training" at the Detroit Medical Center, the for-profit institution that is the school's primary medical partner.

Dr. Mark E. Schweitzer

"This tuition increase, commensurate with the costs of providing an excellent clinical experience, will be 100 percent allocated to undergraduate medical education and to undergraduate medical education only," wrote Schweitzer, who is WSU's vice president of health affairs.

He wrote that the school is proposing the increase only after taking cost-cutting steps that include pay cuts for him and other officials, reductions in administrative costs at the Wayne State University Physician Group and cuts in physicians' salaries.

He also wrote that tuition at the WSU School of Medicine remains in the middle of rates at public medical schools across the country.

"Our promise to you is that every penny of this increase will go to provide you an excellent clinical experience," wrote Schweitzer. "And our promise to you is to provide the best medical education possible. I wish there were another way."

Like many other public universities, Wayne State will consider tuition rates for the rest of the student body in June.

Several schools have said they will freeze tuition at 2019-2020 levels for 2020-21, including Central Michigan, Michigan State and Western Michigan universities.

But Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson hinted at a tuition increase last week in a letter to the campus community, stating that the university may have to cut its budget by $60 million, resort to layoffs and eliminate programs and services in the worst scenario outlined amid the pandemic.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com