Eastern Michigan University: 7.8% tuition increase necessary
Ypsilanti — The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents on Tuesday raised undergraduate tuition 7.8 percent for the upcoming school year, exceeding a state cap and passing up $1 million in incentive funding.
The increase means in-state undergraduate students at EMU will pay $754 more in 2015-16, for a tuition bill of $10,417, up from $9,663 this year.
Because the tuition increase exceeds the 3.2 percent cap set by the state Legislature, EMU will forfeit the state incentive funding, spokesman Geoff Larcom said. The school, however, will gain $10 million in extra tuition revenue.
Larcom also stressed that EMU is among the least expensive public universities in the state, ranking 13th out of 15.
Though the regents approved the rate hike unanimously without discussion, after the meeting board Chairman Mike Morris said the increase was needed to support academic programs, staff and other areas at the university.
“This is a tremendous educational opportunity that is priced right,” Morris said.
EMU’s hefty hike comes as several Michigan university boards prepare to meet this month and approve tuition rates for this fall.
Michigan State University trustees meet Wednesday, the University of Michigan regents on Thursday and Wayne State University’s Board of Governors next week.
Whether Eastern Michigan will start a trend of tuition hikes higher than the state cap is unclear.
Not long ago, it looked like three schools might exceed the tuition cap and miss incentive funding allocated by the state when the cap was set at 2.8 percent, said Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.
After a legislative budget negotiating session at the end of May, the cap was raised to 3.2 percent, and Boulus thought earlier this week that would be high enough to persuade schools against going over it.
Now, he is not so sure.
“It could lead to other schools following suit, but I don’t know the answer to that,” Boulus said.
The incentive funding tied to the cap includes just 1.5 percent of the state’s $1.3 billion appropriation for public universities. Boulus said if other schools ignore the cap, that could send a message to the Legislature.
“But how that message is received remains to be seen,” Boulus said.
EMU spokesman Walter Kraft said along with the tuition hike, the school increased financial aid to students by $4.7 million over last year.
Even so, Tiran Burrell, an EMU senior from Detroit, said the tuition increase will not be easy for some students to swallow.
“It is going to give a harder time to students who don’t get scholarships and grants,” Burrell said. “It definitely will make people take out more loans and create more debt for a lot of people. However, it is admirable they’re 13th out of 15th in the state.”
The only other time a Michigan university has exceeded the state’s tuition increase cap was in 2013, when Wayne State hiked its rate 8.9 percent, citing years of disinvestment by the state in public universities.
WSU spokesman Matt Lockwood said this week the school would not exceed the cap this year.
“There is absolutely no talk of us going over the cap, and none of the models presented by the administration will be going over the cap,” Lockwood said.
New tuition rates at Michigan universities come as only one public university — Saginaw Valley State University — was below the national average of college tuition and fees of $9,139 in 2014-15, according to the College Board, a New York-based nonprofit.
Michigan Technological University — the state’s most expensive public school last year with a $14,040 annual price tag — is 53 percent higher than the national average.
Meanwhile, UM, which cost $13,486 last year, and MSU, which cost $13,252, are 48 percent and 45 percent higher than the national average, respectively.
Joel Ferguson, chairman of the MSU Board of Trustees, said that’s because the state slashed support to public universities years ago, and the funding has not been fully restored.
“We’re among the lowest states in the nation for state funding,” said Ferguson, pointing to reports by the College Board showing that Michigan is fifth from the bottom nationally.