Q: Why did Wayne State increase tuition?
A: We understand the state’s budget challenges, and appreciate the state’s modest increase in funding this year, however it is not enough to offset rising costs and adequately protect our academic programs and student experience.
In 2000, the University’s state appropriation accounted for approximately two-thirds of our general fund budget and tuition accounted for one-third. State appropriation has, in absolute dollars, dropped $61,587,000 between 2003 ($245,520,000) and 2014 ($183,398,300). Now one-third of our general fund budget comes from the state and two-thirds from tuition.
After the state’s funding allocation for 2016, Wayne State will have recovered less than one-third of the $32-million budget cut it received in FY 2012. Continued systematic underfunding will affect student services and erode the progress we have made in recent years in increasing retention and graduation rates of our students.
Q: Wayne State will also receive performance-based funding, doesn’t that help?
A: Michigan took an important step three years ago in adopting a metrics system for funding higher education, and is to be commended. We support performance-based funding. However, we believe performance metrics should take into account the unique missions of each institution within the state, and incent desirable outcomes while minimizing negative unintended consequences, such as under valuing the attainment of degrees by low-income students.
As currently implemented, our metrics are less a measure of actual performance than they are a measure of institutional characteristics, like enrollment size. Currently, Michigan’s universities are grouped and compared to a broad range of institutions that share their Carnegie research classification - which doesn’t account for the unique characteristics of each institution. As a result, under the current performance-based funding model Wayne State has consistently received the least amount of funding.
The way our performance metrics are constructed, it would be far more beneficial for Wayne State to decrease its research expenditures significantly, and move from the top Carnegie classification to the second tier classification, "Research University, High Research" (RUH).
If Wayne State were to do this, we would be compromising our research mission - as well as the benefits that accrue to the State from our research activities - but we would be rewarded instantly by greater performance funding in terms of total degrees and institutional expenditures as a percent of core expenditures. In fact, we would be well above the mean in three of the four performance metrics when currently we are above the mean in only one. And this is simply because we are grouped and compared with a broad range of institutions that share the Carnegie RUVH classification.
Q: You are asking students to pay more in tuition. As an institution, what is Wayne State doing to reduce its expenses?
A: To balance the budget, the university is implementing $10.6 million in budget reductions, including the elimination of 50 faculty and staff positions.
WSU has managed its budget carefully for a long time. Over the past five years, we have cut almost $70 million from our base budget. This has been accomplished by taking many actions including purchasing and hiring freezes, refining our purchasing strategies, improving energy conservation, restructured health plans and eliminating and consolidating departments. These budget adjustments have resulted in more efficiency, while also ensuring a continuing focus on the core missions of teaching and research.
Q: With tuition increasing, what is Wayne State doing to help students cover the cost of a college education?
A: Wayne State offers students a number of important resources and programs to help reduce the overall cost of earning a degree. The most direct resource available to students is financial aid, which Wayne State will increase by $2.5 million - or 3.9 percent - this year. With this increase, its institutionally funded financial aid is now $66.3 million - a more than 200 percent increase in the last decade. Our total financial aid budget, including loans and work-study awards, is $342 million.
In addition to institutional financial aid, there are $11 million in privately funded endowed scholarships available, and our development team is working diligently with donors to increase that figure.
Q: How is Wayne State helping students create the most cost-effective path toward a degree?
A: Comprehensive academic advising and support, along with more convenient access to education, are critical factors in creating a cost-effective degree path for students.
Wayne State has significantly expanded its student-advising department. As a result, advising means much more than helping students select their courses. Advisors now spend more time with students - time used to help students explore their hopes and dreams, monitor and assess their progress, and take advantage of the many opportunities on campus.
We also have our S.M.A.R.T. Check program, which students must complete before dropping a class. This mandatory program is important for all students, but especially for those receiving financial aid. Prior to dropping a class, students must meet with a trained academic advisor to review the academic and financial ramifications of dropping a course, ensuring that students do not jeopardize their financial aid and unwittingly trigger loan repayments.
We are also encouraging students who are able to shorten their time to degree by encouraging full-time class scheduling. One example of this is our spring/summer semester tuition discount of 30 percent for students who take at a total of at least 24 credits in the prior fall and winter semesters.
The Transfer Student Success Center opened in fall 2013 and is dedicated to assisting community college and four-year institution transfer students with the unique challenges they face.