President's Message to Campus - June 17, 2019

Vice President for Administration and Finance

It is a pleasure to share with you that James D. Bachmeier has accepted my invitation to serve as vice president for Administration and Finance. He will begin this appointment on July 22, 2019.

Jim brings 30 years of experience in higher education to Ferris State University. For the past 24 years he has served at Grand Valley State University, most recently as associate vice president of Strategic Initiatives and previously for 10 years as vice president for Administration and Finance. Before joining Grand Valley he worked at Western Nebraska Community College, including five years as vice president for Administration and Finance. Prior to pursuing a career in higher education he worked seven years as a senior accountant and auditor. 

While at GVSU, Jim Bachmeier was responsible for significantly increasing the University’s housing capacity, improving the University’s credit rating from A to A+, managing an endowment of more than $100 million, leading a budget process through two recessions and a decline in statewide population, and achieving unprecedented athletic program success. He has considerable experience managing university accounting, athletic, auxiliary, facility, human resource and public safety departments. He is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Mr. Bachmeier is currently serving or has served on numerous boards including the SmartZone Local Development Financing Authority, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Lakeshore Advantage, Disability Network-Lakeshore, Greater Ottawa County United Way and West Michigan Strategic Alliance.

In this search we were fortunate to have the work of an excellent committee that screened and reviewed candidates. I want to express my thanks and appreciation to search committee members Bruce Borkovich, Marie Delamater, Sally DePew, Gheretta Harris, Arrick Jackson, Gayle Lopez, Jim McIntyre, Bob Murray, David Pilgrim, Miles Postema, Joy Pufhal, Alex Smart, Tia Brandel-Wilhelm and Ralph Williams for their assistance. This committee was expertly led by Mike Hughes and assisted by Fonda Kuzee. Additionally I want to thank Mike Hughes for serving as interim vice president for Administration and Finance for much of June and July.

Jim and his wife plan to relocate to Big Rapids. Please join me in welcoming Jim Bachmeier to Ferris State University. I am delighted he has made the decision to join our leadership team.  

Preliminary Budget and Tuition Update

A special meeting of the Board of Trustees was held this afternoon to approve the University’s preliminary budget and set tuition rates for FY2019-20. The general fund operating budget is presented to the Board of Trustees for approval in two stages – a preliminary budget is recommended in the spring to establish tuition rates and base operating support levels for the new fiscal year which begins on July 1. In the fall, when enrollment and State funding decisions are known, a final budget is presented for consideration.

The Board of Trustees approved an average 3.15 percent undergraduate tuition increase (2.38 percent increase for lower division tuition and 3.91 percent increase for upper division tuition). The tuition rates adhere to the 3.2 percent State restraint level as proposed in the executive and house higher education budgets. It is important to have tuition rates set now so our students will know and can plan for their fall semester costs. More information about the board’s action on tuition is available on our University News website.

State Budget Update

As expected the state budget has not yet been approved, but progress had been made.  In March, Gov. Whitmer recommended a 3% across the board increase to public universities. Her executive budget proposal also limited Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) funding for university students. The Governor’s budget plan includes a proposed $.45 cent increase in the gas tax, which would be introduced in three phases over the next 18 months. Approval of this tax moves road repairs from the general fund and the portion of university budgets in the school aid fund to the general fund. 

The Senate approved budget plans in mid-May. These include an overall 1.5% increase to public universities. In this they used the performance funding formula, but adjusted the allocation of this to cover the unfunded portion of the Indian tuition waiver in university budgets. In 1976 the Michigan legislature waived tuition for residents who are one-quarter Native American blood quantum and an enrolled citizen of a U.S. Federally Recognized tribe. For some time this cost has only been partially funded by the state. At Ferris, currently about $800,000 in Indian tuition waivers is not covered by the state. This raised the proposed Senate increase to Ferris 2.5%. Most importantly the Senate restored full funding for university TIP students.

Late last week the House approved their budget plan. This uses a modified performance funding formula to award a .4% increase to state universities. The House plan also fully funds the Indian tuition waiver, bringing the proposed increase to Ferris 1.8%. In what is most encouraging, they also recommend full funding for university TIP students. The House budget plan directs that all taxes on gasoline be earmarked for roads. Currently the sales tax on gasoline is directed to schools and local government, and a portion of the gas tax is dedicated for transit.

A common characteristic of both the House and Senate budget plans is that neither increases the gas tax. Negotiations with the House, Senate and Governor’s Office will seek to reach a budget compromise. At this time it is unclear when this may occur.  

Summer Band

For the 17th year Scott Cohen is leading the Ferris Community Summer Band. This group includes a broad cross section of University students, faculty and staff, emeriti and alumni, and other musicians from the community. The Summer Band has been in existence for 54 years at Ferris, and Scott does an exceptional job organizing and conducting this group. 

The band has four concerts remaining on their summer schedule.  For the next three Wednesdays, June 19, 26 and July 3, they will perform at the Big Rapids Band Shell. Thursday, June 27, they are part of the Spectrum Big Rapids Hospital Community Block Party and Health Fair. Concerts are at 7 p.m., and it is helpful to bring your folding lawn chair. 

Orientation

This past week the first of 14 orientation sessions began for students who have been accepted as freshman at Ferris. These sessions will continue throughout the summer until the start of the fall semester on Aug. 26, 2019. Nearly 2,000 students will visit campus to get to know the University better, register for classes, and meet faculty, staff and educational counselors.

It is wonderful to see these new students, their families and friends on campus. Witnessing their excitement about being in Big Rapids and choosing Ferris State University is always a wonderful feeling. When you see our new students and their families on campus, please take a moment to welcome them to our University. Orientation is an important step to ensure that students who have chosen Ferris, enroll and attend in the fall. I want to extend a special thanks to everyone involved in planning, hosting and working at these orientation sessions. Your assistance makes an important difference and is sincerely appreciated.

Best wishes,

David L. Eisler, president