Wayne State freezes tuition, warns of budget cuts

The Detroit News

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Wayne State University will freeze tuition for all students this fall while warning of budget cuts to come.

The school's Board of Governors unanimously agreed Friday to a proposal by President M. Roy Wilson not to increase tuition for undergraduate and graduate students for 2020-21.

Towers Hall is seen on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit, which is all but empty, Wednesday afternoon, March 11, 2020. The university extended its spring break for students and cancelled all classes until March 23 to plan for its shift to online instruction due to the state's first confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

“It has been a difficult decision for the Board of Governors to freeze tuition for the coming year,” board chairwoman Marilyn Kelly said in a statement. “Two of our most crushing worries have been, first, that in freezing tuition, the board forces the university to confront a budget shortfall of as much as $60 million.

"Second, we render the university all the more challenged to meet the goals we’ve set of making Wayne University an even better learning center for minorities and the financially underprivileged to gain a quality education."

Wilson said there will be some budget cuts, noting that the university relies on tuition as one of its two main funding sources, with the other being state aid.

“There will be some financial pain,” he said. “It’s too early to say specifically what the budget deficit will be. There are still too many unknown variables.  We don’t know how long the pandemic will last or its impact on enrollment and our state appropriation."

Because of uncertainty stemming from the virus outbreak, which led Wayne State and other universities to switch to online-only classes this spring, the administration plans to wait until the September board meeting to seek approval of the school's fiscal year 2021 budget. Normally, the governors approve the budget for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, in June.

Wilson said the fall semester will start as scheduled and have a mix of in-person, remote and online classes, with details to be available by July 15.

Wayne State, whose tuition is $11,700 for in-state students, joined other Michigan universities that have foregone tuition increases for the coming academic year. Michigan State University's Board of Trustees voted last month to freeze tuition plus room and board, and Central Michigan University decided in April to keep tuition its current tuition rates in place for 2020-21.