Michigan State trustees vote to increase tuition, add relief for lower-income students

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The Michigan State University Board of Trustees voted 5-3 Friday to raise tuition 2% and phase in an annual student recreational fee starting next year. The board voted unanimously to raise room and board 1.95%.

The Friday approval of the increases breaks a four-year freeze on tuition and a two-year freeze on room and board. The tuition increase would average to about $290 extra for incoming resident first-year students, raising tuition to about $14,750, MSU President Samuel Stanley told board members.  

"This modest increase of 2% will help MSU continue services to support student achievement, specifically in addressing the graduation gap for all students," said MSU Board Chairwoman Diane Byrum.

The overall proposed university budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year totals about $1.7 billion, an increase of about $96 million from last year. 

The tuition increase would average to about $290 extra for incoming resident first-year students, raising tuition to about $14,814, MSU President Samuel Stanley told board members.

The university also intends to boost financial aid by $3.8 million. Students from families with an annual income of less than $100,000 would not be impacted by the tuition increases in 2021-22 due to a combination of financial aid and federal COVID-19 grants, Stanley said.

"The board and administration are very cognizant of the financial stresses students and families have experienced through the COVID-19 pandemic and I appreciate the thoughtfulness of our board members over the last few months as we discussed many budget implications, alternatives and scenarios,” Stanley said.

The $1.95% room and board increase would add about $205 a year to those fees. 

The recreational fee for next year would begin at $100 per year, increase to $180 the second year and top out at about $260 the third year. 

"Michigan State today is the only, the only, Big Ten major state public university without a student recreation fee to maintain and upgrade recreational facilities," Stanley said. "The adequacy of our rec facilities is something I've heard about from our students since I arrived at Michigan State University."

The tuition and room and board family income exemptions would benefit about 11,000 students, based on the university's assessment of salary information on financial aid documents.

"This model essentially was designed to really minimize impact on our economically disadvantaged students and we really utilized the fact that we’ve continued to increase our financial aid even while tuition was flat over the past few years," Stanley said.

The university saw about $494 million in revenue declines for fiscal years '20 and '21 during the pandemic, largely linked to auxiliary services like residential housing and the athletics program. 

But part of that decline included about a $50 million gap in the general fund due to a decline in international students unable to travel to the state because of the pandemic, Stanley said. 

The university met the financial challenge through "extensive" cost reduction, with one-time dollars from the federal government and by tapping into university reserves.

"We managed and I think we’re coming out of it with great optimism about where we’ll be at next year,” Stanley said. 

The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Thursday voted to increase tuition by 1.4% this fall but overall costs aren't expected to increase for many students because of need-based financial aid. The increase pushes tuition and fees to $16,178 a year for students taking 30 credit hours annually. 

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