University of Michigan OKs tuition hike for 2021-22, but touts '0% increase' for most students

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

In-state undergraduate tuition at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor will rise by 1.4% this fall but overall costs won't increase for the majority of students next school year due to added need-based financial aid, officials said.

The UM Board of Regents unanimously approved the new tuition rates on Thursday as part of a $2.4 billion general fund budget for the Ann Arbor campus for the 2021-22 school year.

UM's tuition increase will hike costs for full-time resident undergrad students by $230 for those taking 30 credit hours annually, pushing tuition and fees to $16,178 a year.

The University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. In-state undergraduate tuition for the campus will rise by 1.4% but overall costs won't increase for the majority of those students next year due to added need-based financial aid, officials said.

The budget includes financial aid for undergraduate students to meet "100 percent of demonstrated financial need." The 6.4% increase in undergraduate financial aid, a boost to $268 million, means that 65% of in-state students will pay less than full tuition. Of those, 27% will pay no tuition, officials said. 

"I wholeheartedly want to support a 0% increase for the majority of our in-state students and no tuition for more than a quarter of them," said UM Regents Chair Denise Ilitch before the vote. "Last year has been very, very difficult for our students and we have heard you and we have heard your parents."

UM President Mark Schlissel said the plan targets low-income students.

"Raising tuition slightly, less than the rate of inflation for those who cannot afford it, allows the university to continue a trend of increasing aid to students who need it the most," Schlissel said. 

For more affluent in-state students who pay the tuition increase, Schlissel said the increase affects slightly more than one-third of the undergraduate population and equates to less than $20 per month.

The budget also includes a $15 minimum wage for permanent workers and the expansion of a scholarship program for low-income families known as the Go Blue Guarantee. The program has been offered since 2018 to Ann Arbor campus students from families with incomes of $65,000 or less and assets of $50,000 or less.

One University, a coalition of students, faculty and community members, has been lobbying UM officials to invest more funding in the Dearborn and Flint campuses since December 2018. Extending the Go Blue Guarantee to those campuses was among one of the demands.

Regent Mark Bernstein said UM made a promise three years ago to outstanding high school students that they could attend the Ann Arbor campus no matter their family's resources.

"Today, we take that promise one huge step further," Bernstein said. "It is a big, big win for all of our students on all three of our campuses."

While many hailed the Go Blue Guarantee expansion, some were disappointed that while there is no academic restriction for Ann Arbor students, there is for the Dearborn and Flint campuses.

Returning students at UM-Flint or UM-Dearborn who have not exceeded the eight-semester limit will be eligible starting this fall but must have a 3.0 GPA.

Incoming first-time students at UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint need a high school GPA of at least 3.5 to qualify for the guarantee's eight semesters of free tuition.

Amytess Girgis, a UM Ann Arbor graduate who was among the leaders of One University, tweeted that the GPA requirement is, "a classist, racist requirement that implies only 'hard working' students deserve an education."

Levi Todd, student body president at UM-Flint, said students are grateful the regents responded to the students' demands and expanded the Go Blue Guarantee to the Flint and Dearborn campuses.

"Countless students will benefit from this initiative, and will no longer feel the crushing burden of tuition costs and student loan debt," Todd said. "We are very disappointed with the GPA requirement – which places a barrier to low-income students across the state – but we believe this is a step in the right direction." 

UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said all Go Blue Guarantee recipients on the Ann Arbor campus meet the standard, even though it isn't applied for eligibility.

“The average GPA of the Go Blue Guarantee students in Ann Arbor is over 3.8 and they all have 3.5 or above, so the academic standards are actually quite the same,” Schlissel said during the meeting.

Donors have already supported the initiative including the Flint-based Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, which has given a $1 million grant for UM-Flint students, and Kathy and Jim Hackett, who gave a gift to support UM-Dearborn students.

The regents also approved a 1.8% tuition increase for out-of-state undergraduate students attending the Ann Arbor campus, pushing tuition and fees to $53,232 annually.

For most graduate students, tuition would increase 1.8%.

Meanwhile, housing costs in Ann Arbor will increase by 3%. For students living in a double room in the residence halls, costs would increase by $368 to $12,592 annually.

At UM-Dearborn, tuition will increase 1.9%; at UM-Flint, there will be no tuition increase.

"We are committed to a budget that provides for increased financial aid to support families' financial need, for an expansion of programming for students' academic success, well-being and engagement and modest salary programs following a year-long salary freeze." said UM Provost Susan Collins.

Last year, the regents approved a 1.9% tuition increase, which meant the cost for most undergraduate students was $15,520 annually for in-state students and $51,838 for non-resident students.

Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, said all public universities are struggling with setting a budget due to the state budget that begins Oct. 1 not being resolved, and proposed funding for state universities are "all over the board," making planning difficult.

Uncertain enrollment numbers for this fall because of the pandemic are also a challenge for universities, he said.

"The governing boards that set tuition want to keep any tuition increases to a minimum especially now given the impact the pandemic has had on Michigan families," Hurley said.

UM is among the first of the state's public universities to set tuition this year.

Eastern Michigan University increased tuition by 3.3% earlier this month and Lake Superior State University increased tuition in March by 3.5%, according to the Michigan Association of State Universities. Other universities will be setting rates this week and next including Michigan State University on Friday and Wayne State University on June 25.