University of Michigan raises main campus tuition 2.7%

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — With public universities across the state starting to set tuition rates, the University of Michigan weighed in on Thursday when the Board of Regents increased tuition by 2.7 percent in 2015-16.

The increase means in-state undergraduates in Ann Arbor will pay $13,486 annually, up from $13,116 last year.

Room and board will rise 3 percent, so the cost for a double room will rise $308, for a total cost of $10,554 annually.

That means it would cost a full-time student living on UM's campus $24,040 a year.

The regents approved the tuition hike 6-1, with Andrea Fischer Newman voting no. Before the vote, she and other regents spoke about their concern about increasing tuition and the impact on middle-class families.

Newman said some parents are able to provide the resources for their children to attend college. "For others, higher ed is out of the question without loans, grants and financial aid," she said.

Increases in college costs continue to outpace gains in family income, and pushing for more federal or state funds is not the answer to solve this problem, she said.

"We need to lead on this," Newman said. "We need to fix this problem; otherwise, we are going to price the middle class out of education."

But Regent Mark Bernstein called the increase prudent, modest, reasonable and fair.

"It is net tuition that really matters," Bernstein said. "It is what students and their families actually pay that should be our focus. For me, making college affordable is about making college affordable for the students who need the most help making it affordable. Lower income, middle class students desperately need this help. And let me be blunt: Wealthier families don't. The vast majority of money raised by this tuition increase will go to increase need-based financial aid — exactly where it should go."

About 70 percent of in-state and 50 percent of out-of-state students at UM receive some financial aid, officials said. For next year, financial aid will increase 8 percent, for a total of $144.1 million.

Regent Michael Behm suggested that UM consider helping students pay for their education by offering them low-cost loans with university endowment funds, like some of the Ivy league schools do.

"We believe in the product we produce, the product we produce is our students and having the faith in our students, what better than to give them a low-interest loan that could be paid back," he said.

The regents also raised tuition 3.2 percent for students at the Dearborn and Flint campus, increasing annual costs to $11,562 and $11,458, respectively.

UM followed Michigan State University — which raised tuition by 2.7 percent — and stayed within a 3.2 percent tuition cap set by the Legislature, meaning the state's flagship school will get $4.3 million in incentive funding with a budgeted $299.4 million state appropriation.

Eastern Michigan University exceeded the cap earlier this week, hiking tuition 7.8 percent and forfeiting $1 million in incentive funding.

UM's tuition increase is part of a $1.79 billion operating budget, which is up 2.2 percent over last year. Officials said the budget includes an expansion in some areas such as big data, a humanities collaborative, interprofessional health education and resources for an inclusive campus.

The university also is working to control costs while addressing growing needs such as mental health and disability services, assistance for international students and sexual misconduct prevention efforts.

Other universities that have set tuition include Central Michigan, up 2.6 percent; Western Michigan, up 3.2 percent; and Lake Superior State, up 2.67 percent.

On Thursday, Michigan Technological University raised tuition by an average of 3.1 percent for next school year, while Northern Michigan University approved a 3.2 percent increase.