Litynski tells legislators more budget cuts would be 'devastating'
April 11, 2003
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University "is arguably the most efficient university in Michigan," but further cuts to its already low level of state support will have a devastating impact on the University.
That's the message carried to Lansing April 2 by Interim President Daniel M. Litynski, when he testified with four other university presidents before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Higher Education. The hearing was part of the process through which legislators will decide whether to follow Gov. Jennifer Granholm's recommendation for a total 10 percent across-the-board cut to the state's 15 public universities for the 2003-04 fiscal year. At WMU, the cut would mean a loss of more than $12 million.
"Cutting an already lean organization cuts muscle and bone," Litynski told legislators. "If not adjusted in some way, this could cause severe reductions in faculty and staff, possibly forcing the elimination of courses and programs that would delay or deny the educational goals of hundreds of Michigan citizens."
Litynski joined the presidents of Grand Valley, Lake Superior State and Wayne State universities as well as the chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint in a panel presentation that gave the presidents an opportunity to outline their schools' needs and respond to questions from the subcommittee.
Litynski took the opportunity to point to historical inequities in the state's appropriation formula that have resulted in underfunding for WMU; the University's rapid recent growth, which has exacerbated the impact of underfunding; and state data that shows WMU operating at efficiency levels far exceeding those of its sister institutions.
Litynski noted that House Fiscal Agency data and analysis shows WMU is the leanest of all of the state's 15 public universities when it comes to the size of its administrative/professional staff. While the state average staff-to-student ratio is one administrator for every 23 students, WMU has only one administrator for every 57 students, making its staff the leanest in the state-despite the dramatic demands for services created by a growing student body.
"A lean organization can be especially vulnerable in times of budget reductions," Litynski told the subcommittee, and he pointed to decreasing state support per student as the factor putting WMU in peril. "Our dedicated faculty and staff continue to shoulder heavy workloads when compared to national statistics."
He noted that on a per-student basis, WMU, at $4,869 per student, already receives thousands less than the average for the state's three other "Doctoral/Research-Extensive" universities, where per-pupil funding ranges from a high of $10,304 at Wayne State to a low of $7,685 at Michigan State University.
And with its history of tuition restraint, WMU's combined tuition and appropriation revenue per student is almost 40 percent less than its peer institutions.
"We've been challenged by the budget realities of the past," Litynski said in response to a question from Rep. John Stewart about the idea of adjusting budget cuts this year to begin countering past inequities, instead of doing an across-the-board cut to higher education. "Budgets are simply a reflection of policy. We place our money where we want to do something and I recommend a differential cut as an acknowledgment of that."
Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, firstname.lastname@example.org