BIG RAPIDS - On Friday, Dec. 14, the Ferris State University Board of Trustees voted to return more than $1 million in tuition to students. The monies were collected through a per-credit contingency fee charged at the start of the fall semester.
The university established the fee in response to a delayed state payment to public universities and uncertainty on whether the state would meet its ongoing budget obligations. In November when the delayed payment was received, trustees removed the fee for spring semester. With the state recently finalizing its 2007 package of taxation and budget legislation, the Ferris board voted to refund the fees collected during the fall semester.
Because of different tuition structures, this contingency fee did not affect students at Kendall College of Art and Design.
"These are very uncertain financial times in Michigan with more than $9.7 million in budget cuts from the state to Ferris State University over the past five years. These are also very challenging financial times for our students. Our board of trustees and university administration are committed to keeping costs low and helping our students complete their education," Ferris President David Eisler said.
"The contingency fee was designed to protect the financial stability of our university. Given the delayed budget decisions by the legislature, this allowed the flexibility to avoid a larger tuition increase that would have become a part of the base upon which future rates would be figured," said James K. Haveman Jr., chair of the Ferris State University Board of Trustees. "Action by the legislature and governor allowed us to remove the fee and return these funds to students."
Returning Ferris students will see the fall contingency fee credited on spring tuition bills. Graduating students and others not returning for spring semester will have refund checks issued to them via mail to their permanent address or by direct deposit. Students who have the resources to do so can donate all or part of their refund to The Ferris Foundation general scholarship fund to assist other students.
"Students in Michigan public universities need all the help they can get to make sure a degree remains affordable for them," Eisler said. "It is wonderful to be able to refund these fees and help our students, but as we look to the future we expect that there are difficult financial decisions ahead. At Ferris, we're committed to making sure a college degree remains within reach."
Last fall, Ferris registered a record number of students with 13,087 attending classes at its Big Rapids campus, Ferris-Grand Rapids and Kendall College of Art and Design, also based in Grand Rapids; at satellite campuses throughout the state, and studying online.
The vote to refund the fees came on the eve of the university's winter commencement, during which degrees were bestowed upon approximately 500 students at ceremonies in Big Rapids.