Oct. 8, 1999
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University is seeking $12 million in state funds to boost its engineering programs, enhance regional collaboration, improve technology and provide more financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students.
The requests, approved Oct. 7 by the WMU Board of Trustees, now go to the state Department of Management and Budget and eventually to the State Legislature for possible action during the state's 2000-01 fiscal year. Trustees also approved a similar list of requests for capital outlay projects that will go to the state.
WMU's fast-growing College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and a proposed research center for the college have been identified as the top two priorities for the additional funds that might be available from the state.
The first priority, for $2 million, would bolster engineering programs as WMU moves ahead with plans to construct a new building for the college as part of a business, technology and research park in Kalamazoo. The new park and engineering campus will be located on WMU's Lee Baker Farm at Parkview Avenue and Drake Road.
The second priority, for $1 million, includes support for the college's proposed Manufacturing Engineering Research Center in Battle Creek as well as for a joint-degree program in Benton Harbor-St. Joseph. Both projects support WMU's commitment to regional collaboration.
They join three other priorities as part of this year's program-revision requests to the state. The other three and the amounts sought are for each are: instructional technology, $1 million; information technology, $4 million; and student financial aid and graduate student support, $4 million.
"Michigan is facing a critical shortage of highly skilled engineers," said Robert M. Beam, vice president for business and finance, in presenting the requests to the board. "Responding to the state's needs, student interest and our mission, WMU's engineering program costs are expected to double in the next five years."
The Manufacturing Engineering Research Center will be operated by WMU with academic offerings from WMU and Kellogg Community College and private-sector research support. In Benton Harbor-St. Joseph, WMU will participate in a joint venture with Lake Michigan College to offer four-year degrees there.
Funds for instructional technology would help WMU equip 25 classrooms per year for the first three years of a project to increase the use of video and other technology for instruction. Because of the high cost, at $35,000 to $40,000 per room, WMU has been able to upgrade only 11 classrooms as part of a technology upgrade project begun four years ago. The project includes several large lecture halls.
WMU's information technology request is for $3.25 million to replace and upgrade its student records system to offer students on-line registration as well as automated degree audits, automatic transfer credit evaluations and other time-saving services. Another $750,000 would support major upgrades in WMU's computer network equipment.
"WMU was the first public university in Michigan to offer telephone registration," Beam said. "We continue to develop our World Wide Web-based capabilities, but we are severely limited in our ability to move forward because of the age of existing equipment and systems."
The $4 million in funds for financial aid would help WMU maintain its tradition of enabling low- and middle- income families to afford higher education. The funds would help undergraduates reduce their level of debt and enable WMU to offer graduate assistants more assistantships.
"Nearly half of our undergraduate students are from families whose incomes are under $40,000 a year," Beam told trustees. "Our goal with these families as well as graduate students, more than half of whose incomes are below $15,000 a year, is to assist needy students with the costs of obtaining their education."
Media contact: Mike Matthews, 616 387-8400, email@example.com
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