college

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Eastern Michigan University officials announced today they've reached a tentative agreement with the union representing EMU faculty members.

The current contract with the union was set to expire at midnight on August 31. EMU students start classes on Wednesday, September 5.

EMU officials say the contract "provides for salary increases of 2 percent per year for each year of the contract, as well as changes to health care plans."

Student debt by year
Lam Thuy Vo / NPR

Students at Michigan's five largest universities sought more loans to pay for college, according to a Detroit Free Press database

These students will join recent graduates around the country whose outstanding private and federal education debts have topped $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. According to the data, as of 2010, students in Michigan have the 11th highest average debt of any state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report shows a growing percentage of Michigan young people have college degrees.

But one expert says the state must do more to keep those graduates from leaving the state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s going to cost the average Michigan State University student $210 more to attend the fall semester.

The MSU Trustees today approved a 3.5 percent tuition increase for next year.  

The increase will be slightly higher for out-of-state students.

Lou Anna Simon is president of MSU. She says no one wants to raise college tuition.

“There are stories about students who are definitely in debt at a higher level than they should be,” Simon told the MSU Board of Trustees before the vote.

Other Michigan public colleges and universities also approved tuition hikes this week, including the University of Michigan and Michigan Tech.

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Federal data show that a federal court district in Michigan ranks number one in the country for the number of federal lawsuits filed against individuals who default on their student loans.

Relative to population size, defaulters in the Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit) were prosecuted at a rate about 10 times the national average during March 2012.

The Central District of California (Los Angeles) came in second, and the Northern District of New York came in third.

Out of the 279 suits filed in March, 57 were filed in the Eastern District of Michigan, 140 in the Central District of California and 13 in the Northern District of New York.

The report, published by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, compared the total number of civil filings per month since March 2007. The number remained relatively stable (between 200 and 250) until Spring 2009, when it dipped slightly, bottoming out at 168 in December of that year.

The number then rose substantially to 598 in April 2011 before declining again towards the early 2009 average.   

The Eastern District of Michigan’s leadership in per capita student debt lawsuits is nothing new. The court topped the ranks five years ago and came in second last year, according to the TRAC report.

The Institute for College Access & Success, a non-profit research and policy organization, reported that 60 percent of 2010 Michigan graduates carried student debt, owing an average of $25,675 — the 11th highest average in the nation.

- Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

It's graduation season across the country, and students are deciding what they want to do with their lives.

Seventy-one-year-old Ernie Caviani is a piano tuner and technician. He says following your passion is key.

Michigan Radio producer Mercedes Mejia has this audio postcard.

Ernie Caviani: This A is vibrating at 220 beats per second. This A is supposed to vibrate, if it matches it at 440, it’s just twice as much.

In my lifetime I’ve tuned a little over 30,000 pianos.

It’s hard to see the future. If you had been around during the Cretaceous Period, sixty-five million years ago, it would have been obvious that the world belonged to the huge and magnificent dinosaurs which dominated the planet.

Nobody would have paid much attention to the little rat-like things called mammals scurrying around the forest floors. But in the end, they would inherit the earth.

Dani Davis

The University of Michigan is leading an effort to get the arts to play a bigger role at research universities.

Reading, writing, and "making" are the skills Theresa Reid wants to see emphasized in higher education.

Eastern Michigan University students who want to immerse themselves in Jewish history and culture will now be able to get credit for it; the school now offers a minor in Jewish Studies.

Marty Shichtman is director of Jewish Studies at EMU. He says classes will range from the history of Judaism to the Holocaust to the state of Israel and the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

AndrewH324 / Flickr

University of Michigan students are harnessing the power of Facebook to promote a bone marrow registry drive to take place tomorrow at the Michigan Union.

A Michigan student who recently became ill with a severe bone marrow disease could potentially find the bone marrow donor he needs at tomorrow’s event.

Daniel Lee, a junior at the University of Michigan was diagnosed with aplastic anemia just over a month ago. His condition means his bone marrow no longer produces enough blood cells and he needs an emergency bone marrow transplant.

University of Michigan junior, Jessica Kaltz began planning the bone marrow drive several months ago. She organized the event in partnership with her sorority, Sigma Kappa, and DKMS, a non-profit organization that recruits bone marrow donors.

Kaltz, who says she was unaware one of her classmates might benefit when she came up with the idea, says, “It’s amazing to see how many people care when you put a face to the cause.”

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Michigan State University’s Human Medicine program is expanding its research facilities far away from East Lansing.

Last month, MSU announced its buying the old Grand Rapids Press building.  This week, developers say they hope to turn an old newspaper building in Flint into a home for MSU medical researchers.

Aron Sousa is an associate dean at the MSU College of Human Medicine.  He says expansions in Grand Rapids and Flint, as well as Midland and Traverse City, reflect the communities’ needs.

“Both the college [of Human Medicine] and the university want to be more active across the state.  We’re the land grant school for the state of Michigan.  We take that mission and that history seriously," says Sousa. 

 MSU is ending some medical programs in Kalamazoo and Saginaw, to make way for new medical schools at Western and Central Michigan Universities.

Wayne State University is changing its admissions standards and retention policies in an effort to boost graduation rates.

Wayne State used to admit students automatically based on a minimum gradepoint average or test scores.

Update 12:56 p.m.

President Barack Obama was at the campus of the University of Michigan today, where he laid out his plan for how to make higher education more affordable.

"Shared responsibility" was a big theme in President Obama’s speech.

Mr. Obama called on states to make higher education funding a higher priority in their state; on Congress to extend tuition tax credits, and double the number of work study jobs available; on colleges and universities to do what they need to do to keep costs down.

"So from now on I’m telling Congress: We should steer federal campus-based aid to those colleges that keep tuition affordable, provide good value, serve their students well. We are putting colleges on notice.

You can't assume that you'll just jack up tuition every year. If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down."

Mr. Obama also introduced a new, $1 billion Race to the Top competition to reward states that come up bigger, more systemic ways to reduce college costs:

"We're telling the states: If you can find new ways of bringing down the cost of college and make it easier for more students to graduate, we'll help you do it. We will give you additional federal support, if you are doing a good job of making sure that all of you aren’t loaded up with debt when you graduate from college."

The President also wants to create a "report card" of sorts for colleges and universities, so that parents and students better understand how a school is doing, how affordable it is, how well its students are going.

And while the roughly 4,000 students in the crowd cheered at Mr. Obama's overall college affordability proposal, not everyone is on board with it.

As Tamar Lewin from the New York Times reports, the President's proposal has "raised hackles in higher-education circles":

“When we hear things like a shift in federal aid, it causes our antennas to go straight up,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education. “Anything that smacks of price controls is of great concern on many levels, especially at a time when states are cutting their budgets — and if the effect of this is to limit tuition, what else would you call it but price controls?”

Ms. Broad said that she and university presidents across the nation shared the president’s commitment to affordable higher education, but that it was not so easy to keep tuition down at a time when institutions must also absorb state budget cuts, increase enrollment and bolster financial aid for the growing number of families who need it.

The President delivered his remarks to roughly 4,000 people, mostly students,  at the Al Glick Field House on U of M's campus.

9:20 a.m.

The stage is up, and the crowd is gathering to hear President Obama deliver remarks at 9:35 a.m. at the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan.

You can listen to his speech by clicking our "listen live" link above.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is at the event and will bring us details of the event later today.

Mr. Obama's speech is part of a nationwide tour where he is adding details to plans he outlined in his State of the Union speech.

Today, standing in front of a sign that reads "An America Built to Last," Obama will talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

This morning, the White House released a "blueprint" for his plan. We'll post more on those ideas soon.

White House

In the last two decades, the cost of attending one year of college in a four-year institution has gone from an average of $7,602 in 1990-1991, to an average of $21,189 in 2009-2010.

And for Michigan's 15 public universities, tuition and fees for in-state undergraduates have more than doubled in the last ten years -

  • going from an average of $5,056 in 2001-2002
  • to an average of $10,551 in 2011-2012

The public universities in Michigan, as in many states, have been adjusting to big cuts in state funding.

In her "Open Letter to President Obama" last month, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman called Michigan "ground zero" for higher education funding cuts:

Some Republican state lawmakers are questioning whether each state university in Michigan needs its own board of trustees.

State Rep. Bill Rogers is sponsoring a proposal to evaluate the need for separate boards.  Rogers said  it's part of an effort to make college education less expensive and more efficient.

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said  having separate boards allows universities to make quick decisions.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan State and the University of Michigan will be playing more west coast teams in the future.

  A deal announced Wednesday could mean the Big Ten will  wield more power in the increasingly competitive world of college athletics.  

Other college sports conferences have added schools in recent years to make themselves more competitive.   The Big Ten is effectively adding another entire conference.  

Flickr/go mustangs

Adrian College has agreed to changes after federal investigators found the small, liberal arts school has discriminated against female student athletes. The Detroit Free Press reports Saturday that the U.S. Department of Education cited the southern Michigan school for 11 violations of gender-equity rules.

Among the changes the school must make: add at least one more women's sport, build a women's locker room in its multipurpose stadium and increase pay for coaches of women's sports.

School spokeswoman Jennifer Compton says the school "has maintained the highest commitment to equality and respect for gender equity" during its 152-year history. She says the college believes it offers "a quality higher educational experience to all students."

The agreement caps a three-year investigation into Title IX violations at the school.

Update 6:18 p.m.

Here's a copy of the court order.

5:42 p.m.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will reconsider a decision to strike down Michigan's ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions.

A panel of the court ruled in July that the affirmative action ban violated equal protection rights in the U.S. Constitution.

The new hearing will take place before more than a dozen judges that make up the entire sixth circuit appeals court based in Cincinnati.

Michigan voters approved the amendment to the state constitution in 2006. The amendment was challenged in federal court by several civil rights groups. Oral arguments and a decision in the case are not expected before next year.

Here's an excerpt from a press release from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette:

On July 1, 2011, a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued a 2-1 decision that declared Michigan’s constitutional ban on racial preferences in public education unconstitutional on the grounds it allegedly violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.   

Schuette appealed the ruling through a formal request for rehearing en banc with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.  A rehearing en banc involves presenting the case to the full court of the 6th Circuit for review.  This process is reserved when new decisions conflict with previous rulings, and for questions of “exceptional importance” (Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure - 35).

MCRI was approved by a 58% majority of Michigan voters in November, 2006.   The day after the measure was approved, several organizations filed suit to invalidate MCRI.  The measure was previously upheld in December 2006 when a separate three judge panel from the 6th Circuit issued a preliminary ruling that unanimously concluded the measure passed Constitutional muster. 

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will remain in force pending a final decision by the court.

5:21 p.m.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider a decision to strike down Michigan's ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions.

 

The Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials says college is still affordable, despite tuition hikes.

A report from the Presidents Council says need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.         

Michael Boulous is executive director of the Presidents Council.

"The bottom line is aid is available if you have need. College still is affordable, and we don’t want that to be a discouraging piece in attending any post-secondary institution."

Boulous says a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.

"The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly," says Boulous. "In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma."

        The report says merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report says need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time.

The Presidents Council says the average student pays about $4,800 in tuition at a public university. Housing and books can add about $9,000 to that price tag.

School officials say about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

Update: 5:08 p.m.

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association plans to comply with Judge Duthie's order.

From their press release:

Laura Frey, CMU Faculty Association President said, “We will obey the court order and return to work tomorrow. But this does not end the issue. The faculty remains strong and committed to securing a fair and equitable contract for members.”

CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association declared a strike on the first day of classes today.

Members of the Faculty Association and those supporting the union formed picket lines around the campus today.

Reporter David Jesse described the scene on the CMU Campus for the Detroit Free Press:

CMU

Faculty reports and the student newspaper say CMU faculty went on strike tonight. The faculty say the administration did not bargain in good faith. The move comes one day before classes are scheduled to start tomorrow.

CMU officials call the faculty strike an illegal work stoppage. They say students should report for the first day of classes tomorrow. The university says it will seek a court injunction tomorrow to stop the strike.

CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

Michigan Radio will have more on the story Monday as it develops.

Update 9:40 p.m.

Here's the University's statement:

Central Michigan University is disappointed that members of the CMU Faculty Association have voted to engage in an illegal work stoppage. This action creates an unfair disruption to the start of the academic year for CMU’s students.

CMU students should report for classes Monday and staff should report for work. CMU’s 439 fixed term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

The impact of the FA’s action places an unfair burden on students who want to graduate in a timely fashion, pursue graduate school or launch successful careers. As such, CMU will request a court injunction Monday to get the faculty back in the classroom.

CMU remains committed to working with the FA toward a contract that is fair and equitable to all parties. CMU and the FA have both petitioned for fact finding, which is the appropriate process to follow in coming to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.

 

The Detroit Free Press reports the strike came after a week of concentrated negotiations:

The move tops a weeklong, last-ditch effort to come to some sort of agreement between the more than 600 members of the union and the school.

The union voted on Monday to authorize the bargaining team to take any job related actions, including a strike.

After that vote, the two sides sat down at the bargaining table every day last week, but made little to no progress on the big issues separating them, such as pay and benefits.

A new federal mandate could make it easier for families to budget for college. Net price calculators will be required by all colleges and universities starting October 29th. At a minimum, net costs are based on a student’s income, how big their family is and their dependency status.

Keith Williams works in the financial aid office at Michigan State University. He says MSU’s net price calculator has been around for several years.

"It just allows a student to make a real, realistic comparison as to what the net price will be at one school versus another school," Williams said.

Margaret Rodriguez works in the financial aid office at the University of Michigan. She says the mandate is a good thing.

"The more information that we can make available to families about the availability of financial aid, the better it is," she said.

Schools can use their own system or the generic calculator provided by the federal government.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

daisybush / Flickr

Since April, about 30,000 college students were dropped from Michigan’s food assistance program. The Department of Human Services’ new eligibility requirements knocked off more than expected.

Brian Rooney is with DHS. He says Michigan’s rules did not align with the rest of the country.

"If you were going to college then we would count that as an employment-in-training program and you didn’t have to be working part-time, you didn’t have to be a single parent, you could be a single, average college-aged student going to school full-time and qualify for food assistance," Rooney said.

Sydney Watts is a full-time student at Central Michigan University. She says she and her roommates are concerned about losing their benefits.

"It’s hard. It’s very, very hard. I will occasionally eat out with friends and stuff, but other than that it’s Ramen noodles or just crap food because we can’t afford anything. So when all my roommates move back and everything, I don’t know what we’ll do," Watts said.

Rooney says one in five Michiganders is receiving food assistance. He says more people will be cut in October when qualifications are asset-based rather than income-based.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

ahans / Flickr

Many colleges and universities are still trying to develop their social media strategy. A study by Noel-Levitz Higher Education Consultants shows one in four potential students drops a school from their prospective list after a bad experience on the university’s website.

photo by Sarah Alvarez/Michigan Radio

Some college students are protesting the state’s gun laws by carrying empty holsters on campus this week. “Students for Concealed Carry” is a national group behind the annual protest. There are protests this week at Grand Valley State University, Ferris State University and Central Michigan University.

The groups say people with valid concealed weapons permits should be able to carry concealed guns on campuses around the state. Colleges and Universities ** are on the list of nine “pistol free zones”.

Reid Smith is the Michigan State Director of Students for Concealed Carry

"You’re only taking about allowing lawful gun owners to carry their firearms on college campuses and you’re not talking about the criminals. The criminals aren’t going to obey the gun free zone laws anyway."

Michigan’s house and senate are considering bills this year on whether or not to do away with the pistol free zones.

thetoad / flickr

A few hundred college students representing all of Michigan’s public colleges and universities rallied at the state Capitol today. They are protesting Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed budget cuts for higher education. Many students held signs with angry and sometimes profane messages aimed at Governor Snyder.

Cardi DeMonaco is president of the Student Association of Michigan. He says he hopes lawmakers pay attention to the concerns of students. 

"Yeah, I think they need to have just talk about this, not just cut and cut and cut, and then they’re going to have issues just keeping up the value of their education. He needs to talk to them and do things with the money they got and not cut it, and work together, and make education better, not just cut and expect them to become better by cutting.”

Snyder has proposed a 15% minimum cut for public colleges and universities. University presidents have said cuts that deep would mean tuition hikes. 

DeMonaco thinks the student voices will be heard, and lawmakers will find other areas in the budget to save, rather than through cuts to colleges and universities.

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says NCAA basketball teams that are not on track to graduate at least half of their players should not be allowed to compete in the NCAA Tournament.

Duncan used to play basketball himself. He says his personal experience is what is driving his call for the measures.

Duncan wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post:

As a kid on the South Side of Chicago who loved basketball, I got to see the best and the worst of college sports. I spent time on the court with inner-city players who had been used and dumped by their universities. When the ball stopped bouncing, they struggled to find work and had difficult lives. Some died early. The dividing line for success was between those who went to college and got their degrees, and those who did not. If a team fails to graduate even half of its players, how serious are the institution and coach about preparing their student-athletes for life?

Duncan wrote that 10 men's teams in the NCAA basketball tournament are not on track to graduate more than half their players.

cmu.edu

Some officials from universities around the state are saying the Governor's proposed cuts are deeper than the 15% they expected.

The Detroit News had a piece on the reaction over the weekend by reporter Karen Bouffard.

Bouffard wrote "university officials said they discovered the cuts after pouring through the details of Snyder's proposed budget."

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said the Governor didn't portray the proposed cuts openly:

"I find it less than honest that you would portray the cut as 15 percent, and call additional money an 'incentive' if you keep tuition less than 7.1 percent. It's clearly less than transparent in the way it's been presented."

Governor Snyder's spokesperson said the proposed cuts were portrayed clearly.

To keep their cuts at 15%, universities have to agree to keep their annual tuition hikes under 7.1%.

If they don't, cuts in state aid could be greater than 15%.

The cuts proposed for the 15 public universities in the state average 21%, according to the article.

Some of the specific proposed cuts mentioned in the piece (cuts if universities don't hold tuition increases under 7.1%):

  • 23.3% for Central Michigan University
  • 19% for Eastern Michigan University
  • 21.9% for Grand Valley State University

Some university officials said "they will try to hold tuition increases under the 7.1 percent cap, although they can't be sure until their boards begin approving next year's budgets in June or July."

According to the article, the largest cut universities have seen in the last 32 years was 8.5%.

Thetoad / Flickr

Several university presidents visited the state Capitol to testify on the higher education budget.

Governor Rick Snyder has called for double-digit cuts to universities, but he says universities can recoup some of that if they find innovative ways to save taxpayers money.

Thomas Haas, president of Grand Valley State University, told lawmakers that universities have limited options when it comes to funding.

He says keeping tuition rates low also helps makes college more accessible to low-income students:

"Please remember there is a direct relationship between state aid and tuition. When there is more of one, we need less of the other," said Haas.

"In the long run, the best way for you to hold down tuition is to put all you can into higher education appropriations, permitting us to find financial aid for our neediest students."

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said higher education institutions understand the budget challenges the state faces, but she also could not promise to keep down tuition increases if there are big cuts in state aid to universities.

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