SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. -- Faced with dwindling state support, Lake Superior State University's Board of Trustees took action similar to that being taken in recent days at all of Michigan's public universities when it raised tuition by 9.3% for the 2007-2008 academic year during its meeting on campus today.
The increase puts LSSU tuition at $299 per credit hour or $3,588 per semester for a full-time student.
Board chair Chuck Schmidt, speaking on the tuition increase and the university budget as a whole, said the board is faced with difficult decisions as state appropriations decrease and costs continue to increase.
"It's very, very difficult," Schmidt said. "We're trying to put together the best possible budget with the resources that we have, and provide the tools that young people need to get the best education that we can provide. The state is now in a situation where it is asking the students to pay a significant part of that financial burden. The cost of education is increasing four-fold compared to the rest of the inflation rate. We've cut expenses. We are now down to cutting programs."
The board also approved a 4.5 percent increase for room and board and a general fund budget of $32.7 million. Room and board will be $7,172 for the 2007-2008 academic year.
LSSU President Betty J. Youngblood outlined some of the budget cuts the university is seeing from the state, including $252,000 that was pulled at the end of the last fiscal year, and a $1.2 million payment usually received in August that is being held until October, if not indefinitely.
"We may get it all back in October, but there are no guarantees…We can't be sure," Youngblood said, noting that budget discussions continue in the state legislature.
"It's difficult to plan a budget and administer an organization with these challenges. And it's going to be quite a challenge for all of Michigan's public universities," she said.
Through budget cuts, salary freezes and some program losses, LSSU has been able to weather the state financial storm, but trustees said today there are few, if any, places left to cut without eliminating academic programs. The board tabled an academic affairs committee recommendation to layoff a music professor during today's meeting.
"Cutting programs or doing anything that affects people is extremely difficult," Youngblood said. "There isn't a program here that we wouldn't like to see flourish."
Trustee Gary Wolfram said LSSU will need to look outside the state of Michigan for additional resources.
"Appropriations from the state are not going to be increasing," he said. "As we look for funding sources, we should seek funds outside the borders of the State of Michigan. There might be people outside of the state who share in our vision and would be willing to help."
State appropriations make up 39 percent of LSSU's total budget. In 2003, the state support amounted to 48% of the university's budget and in 1996, the state provided 56% of the budget.
In other business during Friday's meeting, LSSU heard a report from the presidential search committee. Committee member Ken Peress, LSSU vice president for Student Affairs, said LSSU has invited three candidates to campus for interviews in early August. He said more information would be forthcoming as itineraries are set and he assured those in attendance that LSSU students, employees and the community would have opportunities to meet the candidates.
Youngblood announced her intent to retire last spring.
The board also heard a great deal of public comment and discussion on the budget and the possibility of cutting programs.
Toward the end of the meeting, the board approved new officers for the coming year. Trustee Barbara Cliff, Cheboygan, will be chair, while W.W. "Frenchie" LaJoie, Sault Ste. Marie, will serve as first vice chair. Newest board member Gary Toffolo, Sault Ste. Marie, was elected second vice chair, and LSSU staffers Kaye Batho and Joe Herbig will continue in their roles as secretary and treasurer, respectively.
At the meeting's conclusion, the board passed a resolution honoring outgoing chair Chuck Schmidt, Rochester Hills, for his service to the board. A member of the panel since 2002, and chair since 2005, the resolution noted Schmidt's "demonstrated commitment, financial support, thoughtfulness and understanding," and recognized the board's "sincere appreciation for his public-spirited and significant contributions as chair of the LSSU Board of Trustees." -LSSU-