U of M won't ask legislature to soften Governor's higher ed cuts

Feb 28, 2011

The University of Michigan will probably not ask state legislators to soften what it calls “painful” proposed cuts to higher education.  Rather, U of M President Mary Sue Coleman is expected to tout the institution's successful efforts to drive costs out of the school's budget.

Coleman will appear before state House and Senate committees this week.  The hearings are annual events, at which state university presidents report on their institutions to the legislature.  But there's no question that Governor Snyder's proposed cuts to state universities will be a topic of conversation.

Martha Pollack is the U of M’s vice-provost for academic and budgetary affairs.  She says the school will have reduced expenses by $230-million by 2012.    U of M is now asking its employees to pay 30% of their health care premiums, for example.  And buildings on campus are now using 12% less energy, which saves $3.5 million annually.

"We’ve made reductions all over the place," says Pollack.

Another major source of savings has been reductions in information technology expenses, by eliminating redundant e-mail, software, and hardware systems.    The University is also getting lower bids from vendors for office supplies and other materials.

State funding for universities has been cut several times since 2002, when the U of M received $360-million in state funding.  Governor Snyder has proposed reducing the U of M’s funding from the current $315-million to $255-million.  The U of M could get some of that cut back in the form of a grant, if it keeps tuition hikes under 7%.

Pollack says the cost-cutting has enabled the University to avoid large-scale layoffs, and protect academic quality - so far.  

"Certainly, over time, as cuts from the state continue and continue and continue, it gets much harder to maintain our excellence," says Pollack.  "But we have worked extraordinarily hard to make sure the cost containment has been on the operational side of things."

Governor Snyder says once the state budget is under control, he plans to share future state revenue increases with both K-12 schools and universities.