MSU trustees freeze housing, tuition for 2020-21

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

As Michigan State University braces for a budget shortfall of up to $360 million due to COVID-19, it will freeze housing costs in the fall if students return to campus, along with tuition.

Michigan State University is freezing room and board rates for 2020-21, along with tuition.

On Friday, the MSU Board of Trustees set tuition and housing costs for 2020-21 at the same rates as the previous academic year.

That means in-state students will pay $14,524 for tuition and $10,522 for room and board. It is the third consecutive year that tuition is frozen.

President Samuel Stanley said the global pandemic is affecting the university, but also students and their families and that is why the school is freezing the rates "to help keep MSU affordable."

There are numerous considerations for deciding whether to host in-person or online classes in the fall, and Stanley said the university hopes to let students know its plans by late June or early July.

"We will be teaching in the fall semester, and hope to have our full complement of research efforts taking place on campus, with appropriate protective measures in place," Stanley said. "What is uncertain at this point is whether we will have in-person classes, with most students on campus, or whether we use an exclusively online remote education."

"As we consider these scenarios, I want to emphasize that safety will continue to be Michigan State's guiding principle," he continued. "At the same time, we know that zero risk is not achievable in any scenario and we do want to ensure the continued forward momentum of this university in meeting our mission and ensuring the success of our students."

Stanley emphasized that the university's options are dependent on the status of the epidemic in late summer and the public health infrastructure available to the university for testing for the virus and contact tracing.

Stanley said he has established a COVID-19 reopening campus task force to develop parameters for the effort.

"We hope to have a clear enough picture of the public health situation and our capacity to safely host our students, faculty and staff to be able to announce a decision in late June or early July," Stanley said.

The global pandemic has led to financial challenges for colleges and universities across the country, including significant impacts at MSU, Stanley said.

The university has taken steps to address a $50 million-to-$60 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, and a $150 million-to-$300 million shortfall in the next fiscal year, he said.

So far, the university is tightening its hiring freeze, limiting the filling of vacancies and examining capital projects to determine which can be paused, delayed or indefinitely postponed, the president said.

Executives salaries have been cut by 3-10% and academic and administrative units budgets have been trimmed by at least 3%.

Also under consideration: Campus-wide salary reductions and reducing above-the-match contributions to retirement funds.

"These actions, if applied across the university, represent a shared sacrifice that would address our estimated budget shortfall, which is estimated to be 11% of our general fund expenditures," Stanley said.

MSU Trustee Melanie Foster, who chairs the board's budget and finance committee, said all universities are impacted by the coronavirus in so many ways.

"Its important that all operating units share in mitigating this crisis," Foster said. "Dr. Stanley has done a tremendous job in leading us through this and will continue to do such. I encourage that we all pull this wagon together so we can get through it and emerge as a stronger land grant university."