President's Message to Campus - March 1, 2019

Executive Budget Proposal

In Governor Whitmer’s State of the State address she introduced policy initiatives highlighting the importance of higher education. This is a top priority for her administration and the future she envisions for Michigan. She has set the ambitious goal of increasing the percentage of adults in our state with postsecondary education or credentials to 60 percent by 2030. Currently this figure is close to 44 percent. From her legislative service as a Senator, I remember Gov. Whitmer’s support for higher education as a member of the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. I commend the Governor for pledging strong support for higher education and making it her priority for the citizens of Michigan and our state.

To increase the State’s higher education attainment level, the Governor has proposed the creation of the MI Opportunity Scholarship. There are two pathways for this. The first provides recent high school graduates with the additional funding beyond scholarships and financial aid to attend a community college without costs for tuition or fees for up to three years or 60 credits. The second pathway provides recent high school graduates $2,500 per year of tuition assistance for the first two years of study at a four-year college or university. To qualify for this second pathway, a student would have a household income of less than $80,000 and a minimum 3.0 high school grade point average. Additionally, she has proposed the Michigan Reconnect program targeted at adults 25 years or older. This is similar to the first pathway of the MI Opportunity Scholarship and does not currently have a university component. Because of the associate degrees we offer, we will work hard in Lansing to have Ferris included in this program.

On Wednesday university presidents met with the Governor’s Policy Director, Legislative Director and her Senior Advisor for Prosperity. They expressed strong support for higher education but no funding details. We subsequently met with the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader and House Minority Leader, who questioned how these programs would be funded. There are already significant demands on the state’s budget. The Governor campaigned on fixing the roads. This could be as much as a $2 billion investment. Additionally, the Governor has pledged that the School Aid Fund should not be used for higher education. Currently $600 million from this source goes to public universities and $300 million to community colleges.

Tuesday afternoon Gov. Whitmer will present her 2019-2020 budget recommendations. I cannot recall a time when there has been more interest in the details of this. Funding these proposed programs will require a significant reallocation of existing dollars and most likely, revenue enhancements. The latter will likely draw strong opposition in the House and Senate. The Executive Budget Proposal is the starting point. It helps define issues, sets some parameters and begins this process. I will keep you apprised of developments and progress as the State budget moves forward.

Legislative Testimony

Next week I will provide testimony in Lansing to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education. The new chair of the subcommittee, Rep. Scott VanSingel, from the nearby 100th District, has been very supportive of our efforts. Earlier in February he took a tour of Ferris and attended our Friends of Ferris fundraiser.

Responding to questions posed by the committee, my testimony on March 7 will focus on the uniqueness of Ferris State University, performance metrics and funding support, enrollment trends, and the importance of attracting and retaining first-generation college students through support of the Tuition Incentive Program. In this, I would like to share a few specific highlights directly from the testimony:

- Over the last decade the overall state budget has increased by 25.6%. During this period the budget for community colleges has increased by 36.4%, health and human services by 27.85%, and K-12 education by 17.5%. During this period funding for public universities has decreased by 1.9%. The portion of our budget funded by the state has declined, let alone kept pace with inflation. This disparity in funding is important to remember now that community colleges and public universities have been combined in the same appropriations subcommittee. (Slide Three)

- In 2001 the state provided $6,094 for each full-time student at Ferris. Had this amount only been increased by inflation and covered the increased number of students we teach, this year we would receive $10,134 per student. Instead, this year we received $5,002 per student, less than 50% of this figure. Were we today funded at the 2001 rate, we would receive an additional $57 million in funding this year and our state support would be $112 million instead of $55 million. (Slide Four)

- During the 2009 recession the State vastly reduced financial aid to students. Until then there had been a proud tradition of providing State financial support for students. This amounted to a commitment of between $235 million and $262 million annually. In one year, financial aid support for our students was slashed by $151 million to a total of $84 million. At the same time a movement to replace state funds with federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funds was accelerated. Today student aid is at $140 million, but only $16 million of these dollars are State funds. (Slide Five)

I look forward to sharing information about Ferris State University with this subcommittee. Throughout the legislative session I will work very hard to advocate on behalf of Ferris State University, our students, and the importance of higher education for our state’s future. You can view the text of my testimony online.

Women’s History Month Celebration

The Office of Multicultural Student Services and the Women’s History Month Planning Committee have organized a month-long series of programs and events to celebrate Women’s History Month. A few of this month’s events include:

- Friday, March 1: film screening and discussion of the documentary MAJOR!, 6 – 8:30 p.m., UC 217
- March 1-April 6: “An Army of Women” exhibit, Fine Art Gallery, UC 205
- Wednesday, March 6: guest speaker Elisa Camara, author of “American Brother,” 6 – 7:30 p.m., IRC 120 
- Thursday, March 7: Women’s Advocacy and Education Panel Discussion and Resource Fair, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., UC 202 - Wednesday, March 20: YBBW Critical Conversation Series, 6 – 8 p.m., FLITE 133
- Friday, March 29: Fridays at Ferris Movie, “On the Basis of Sex: Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” 7 and 9 p.m., UC 202

A complete schedule of events can be found on the OMSS website. Thank you to the Office of Multicultural Student Services and the Women’s History Month planning committee members Meg Corner, Sarah Doherty, Karen GreenBay, Charnice LaGrone, Leah Melichar, Jason Mickevich, Trudy Roersma, Angela Roman, Janitza SawyerOcasio, Ashley Schulte, Nick Smith, Meral Topcu, Michael Wade and Jennifer Yontz. I encourage you to take part in these events, and to encourage your students to attend.

Athletics

Our women’s basketball team played an incredible game on the road Saturday defeating Wisconsin-Parkside 79-77. In an exciting game where 15 points were scored during the final minute, a layup with two-tenths of a second remaining secured the victory. Last evening the women were victorious in their final regular season game, defeating Lake Superior 68-59 on the road. With this they secured the number five overall seed for the GLIAC Tournament and will be back in action Tuesday with a quarter final game against Northern Michigan.

The men’s basketball team lost last night to Lake Superior State and will have the number four seed for the GLIAC Tournament. They host Northern Michigan on Tuesday, March 5, at 7 p.m. inside Wink Arena. This will be the final home appearance for this year’s team. Please come out and cheer for them in this important conference tournament game.

Finally, congratulations to Cody Stillwell, senior thrower on the men's indoor track and field squad. He will compete in the 2019 NCAA Division II National Indoor Championships next weekend in Pittsburg, Kansas. This season he holds the nation's 11th-best throw overall at 19.81 meters.

David L. Eisler, president