SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University's Board of Trustees, during its traditional meeting on the day before graduation ceremonies, approved the institution's 2011-2012 budgets and heard encouraging reports on enrollment for the coming academic year.
The board also approved promotion of 10 faculty and added three longtime staffers to the ranks of its emeriti staff.
LSSU Vice President of Finance Sherry Brooks said that while the university is ending its 2010-2011 fiscal year in a strong position with a $400,000 surplus, that sum will be consumed by the 15 percent cut in state funding being proposed by Governor Rick Snyder and the state legislature. In light of that proposed shortfall in state funding, LSSU's $36 million general fund budget includes a 6.94 percent increase in tuition and a 2.9 percent increase in room and board rates.
"The increase we're projecting in our budget is $1.5 million, but the projected cut from the state is $1.9 million," Brooks said. She noted that LSSU will increase financial aid to correspond with its tuition increase and that the increase in tuition is below the 7.1 percent limit that the governor requested.
The increase brings the cost of resident full-time tuition from $4,332 per semester to $4,632, and the cost of regular room-and-board from $4,170 per semester to $4,292. Details on tuition and fees are available on the LSSU website.
Although the state's budget has yet to be finalized, the LSSU board said it wanted to move forward with the institution's budget now in order to let families make plans for financing their children's education. In recent years, the state budget hasn't been approved until later in the summer, so colleges and universities were unsure of their state allocation and many waited until mid-summer to set their own budgets.
Brooks said the LSSU budget again includes no salary increases for LSSU employees. She also noted that the university's Shared Governance and Strategic Planning committees played a big role in shaping the coming year's budget and allocated funds to strategic initiatives on campus based on goals that have been agreed upon by many campus groups.
LSSU Trustee Doug Bovin, who is the city manager for Munising, summed up the feelings of the board on the budget and the continuing decline in state funding.
"I consider budgets to be one of my strong points, and you have my compliments for putting this conservative budget together," Bovin said. "I hate to see an increase, but to provide the service, you have to pass this kind of a budget. I don’t want to say I wholeheartedly support it – I regrettably support it because of lack of state funding."
LSSU President Tony McLain, in his remarks at the beginning of the two-and-a-half-hour meeting, displayed two graphs that showed Michigan ranking last of all 50 states in its support of colleges and universities. Another graph showed how tuition has been increasing at state colleges and universities while state support has declined over the years.
McLain expressed his disappointment in Gov. Snyder's recent speech on the future of education in Michigan, and the governor's "dashboard," (www.michigan.gov) which claims that state universities are falling behind in their efforts to make college more affordable to families.
"At no point in the dashboard does it show the state's role in making college more affordable," McLain said. "It bothers me that this dashboard is showing universities as falling behind in keeping college affordable, when the primary reason for the price increase is that that state has changed its priorities dramatically. It's one thing if the state is doing its share, but it's another if they're passing the blame on to us."
McLain said in spite of financial challenges presented by Lansing, "We're finishing a great year…I can't say enough about the quality of the students we have here, and that says a lot about our faculty and staff, too. We may be facing adversity at the state level, but we're not letting it affect the product that we have."
Bill Eilola, vice president of Enrollment Services, and Ken Peress, vice president of Student Affairs, added support to McLain's claim, noting that enrollment and housing applications continue to increase.
Eilola said 1,621 students are registered for fall semester, compared to 1,510 last year at this time.
"That's the highest number since 2004, a very positive sign," Eilola said, noting that LSSU continues to see strong numbers of students interested in exercise science, nursing, fire science and, recently, in the social sciences.
Peress said housing applications are slightly ahead of what they were last year at this time. In his report on LSSU Student Life, he said a number of improvements to housing facilities will be undertaken this summer, including new roofs to several housing units and new carpeting in the freshman men's residence hall for the first time in many years.
In other business during the meeting, the board approved a one-year extension to President McLain's contract through June 2013, and granted emeritus status to three employees who collectively have worked for 120 years.
The three include Assistant to the Provost for Academic Records Stella DePlonty who, with more than 50 years of service, has worked for every LSSU president; Dean of Academic Services Fred Michels Ed.D., and Director of Human Resources Beverly White, each with 35 years of service.
In addition, the board approved the promotion of 10 members of the faculty, including: Asst. Prof. Melissa A. Copenhaver, Asst. Prof. Jodi L. Orm, and Assoc. Prof. Ronald S. Hutchins, all in Nursing; Assoc. Prof. Robert L. Hildebrand and Assoc. Prof. Andrew H. Jones, Engineering; Prof. Nancy S. Kirkpatrick and Assoc. Prof. Geoffrey B. Steinhart, Biology; Assoc. Prof. James J. Schaefer, Fire Science; Prof. Joseph D. Susi, Athletic Training and Assoc. Prof. Ralf Wilhelms, Business and Economics. –LSSU--
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