Amid struggle for quorum, WSU hikes tuition, leases building

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Wayne State Board of Governors last week approved a 3.2 percent tuition hike and the leasing of a medical office on Mack Avenue to help create a new pediatric group affiliated with its medical school.

Wayne State University Board of Governors chair Kim Trent, left, and president Roy Wilson chat before the start of a Board of Governors meeting at Wayne State University.

The actions were taken amid a continuing dispute over the future of the medical school, with four of the nine members of the board absent.

Based on legal advice, the board declared a quorum present by counting Wayne State President Roy Wilson as a member of the board, in his ex-officio role.

“The four board members who undertook their solemn duty to conduct the university’s important business consulted with the university’s general counsel about whether a quorum existed,” board chairwoman Kim Trent said in a statement distributed by Wayne State.

“Given that the board bylaws and the Michigan Constitution state that the university’s president is a board member, the board was advised by the university’s general counsel that we had the quorum necessary to conduct university business.”

Of the governors, Trent, Brian Barnhill II, Mark Gaffney and Marilyn Kelly voted in favor of the tuition increase and the real estate lease, Trent and Wayne State officials said.

“The other members of the board were not there,” Trent said.

They include Michael Busuito, Anil Kumar, Sandra Hughes O’Brien and Dana Thompson.

Kumar advised members he could not attend, officials said. The remaining three were absent

None of the four could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Disagreements have battered the board’s recent actions.

Earlier this year, the four absent board members stopped a proposal to change the primary partnership of the medical school from the Detroit Medical Center to Henry Ford Health Systems. They argued over consultants’ fees and Wilson’s direction for the medical school.

In December, three of the governors who missed Friday's meeting — Busuito, Hughes O'Brien and Thompson — voted against a contract extension for Wilson. At a meeting in March, Thompson called for Wilson to resign.

The tuition increase approved last week applies to undergraduate and graduate students. The university said it amounts to less than $15 per credit hour for most students in 2019-20.

The board also approved a 3.2 percent increase in financial aid, to $81.7 million.

The university based its tuition increase on the assumption that the state of Michigan will provide a 0.9 percent increase in funding for the coming fiscal year.

“Increasing the tuition burden on our students and their families is never an easy decision,” Trent said.

“There was a time when our state’s elected officials understood that college degree attainment was a public good and they invested in higher education accordingly,” she said.

In a statement, Wilson said Wayne State is receiving less state funding that it did in 2011.

“We remain $11.8 million short of our FY 2011 state funding level," he said. "While we appreciate our state appropriations, it’s becoming more and more challenging to offer our students a high-quality education at a good value.”