HOME > ABOUT WMU > WMU NEWS
President charts WMU's future in campus address
April 22, 2005
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University President Judith I.
Bailey outlined the challenges facing WMU and told a Dalton Center
audience how, "working together," they will continue
to build the quality and reputation of the university.
Speaking yesterday to more than 400 people, mostly WMU faculty
and staff members, the president described in detail the financial
realities of cuts in state funding and enrollment decline. She
outlined several specific near-term and longer-term strategies
"for continuing to move ahead" despite the economic
The complete text of the president's address follows.
Campus Community Presentation
"Moving WMU Forward Together"
Dr. Judith I. Bailey
President of Western Michigan University
Thursday, April 21, 2005
I have invited you here today to review the challenges facing
Western Michigan University. Our individual and collective strategic
responses to these challenges will, in large measure, determine
the future of our University. Thus, my remarks will address three
related points: (1) the vision statement for WMU, (2) the economic
context facing the University, and (3) the University's near
and long-term strategies for realizing and sustaining the vision
we all share.
First, the University's vision statement remains unchanged.
WMU is and will remain a nationally recognized public research
university. As such, the University will become increasingly
The University is committed to all forms of student engagement--intellectual
inquiry, creative and artistic endeavors, and laboratory, clinical,
and field experiences.
Further, graduate education and research are two primary hallmarks
of research universities and must be maintained, although with
more deliberate focus and targeted support.
Undergraduate education remains central to our academic enterprise,
preparing students for the professions and--through general education--for
responsible global citizenship.
Our alumni leave WMU grounded in scholarship and engagement,
prepared for professional work, community service, and on-going
learning throughout their lives.
Second, the economic context has remained relatively unchanged
since I became president of WMU. While the two primary revenue
sources are still tuition and state support, the revenue percentages
from each source continue to reverse. Specific economic highlights
pertinent to our situation include the following:
State funding now provides 40 percent of annual revenue while
tuition provides 60 percent.
General fund budget reductions and cost savings of $30 million
have occurred over the past two years due to reductions in state
funds and declining student enrollment. We have lost about 2,000
students since the fall of 2002.
WMU has eliminated 336 positions primarily in facilities,
maintenance, grounds, custodial, and student affairs during this
same time period.
In protecting the direct delivery of instruction during the
past two years,
- the student affairs base budget was reduced by 26.2 percent,
- the finance and administration base budget was reduced by
- and the president's division was reduced by 21.3 percent
including the elimination of four intercollegiate sports.
The State of Michigan's economy is the nation's worst. At
present, the State is facing a $500 million shortfall for Fiscal
Year 2006, and Michigan automakers are experiencing unprecedented
losses which are reported daily by the media.
The combined impact of two years of revenue decreases--$16.8
million from state appropriations and $9.4 million from tuition
loss due to enrollment declines--coupled with necessary additional
expenses for the 2005-06 fiscal year creates a staggering prospective
deficit of some $20 million. Our cost increases for next year
include funding new initiatives in academic affairs and selected
faculty positions, increasing health care costs, student financial
aid, and building operations. Frankly, it feels at times in our
budget discussions as though we are in the confluence of a "perfect
Given the vision we share for WMU and the economic realities
we currently face, the central institutional question is, "What
is the University's strategy for continuing to move ahead?"
The strategy involves both near-term and longer-term approaches
which are proposed in the tradition of hard work and collaborative
discussions that characterize all WMU employees. I want to formally
express my admiration for your energy, ideas, and perseverance.
While we face a difficult period of institutional transition
and individual adjustments, I am confident that we have the wisdom,
tradition, and good will to move ahead together.
In the near-term and before the fall semester of the 2005-06
year, I am taking the following actions:
1. I will recommend to the Board of Trustees tomorrow that
the prospective $20 million deficit for the 2005-06 year be spread
over two fiscal years. This action is not without risk. In utilizing
base funds reserved for facility improvement and deferred or
emergency maintenance on a one-time basis, we risk having to
make other reductions in the event of emergency or continued
revenue losses. However, I believe this step warrants genuine
trustee consideration while internally we take other necessary
2. Also, tomorrow, I am requesting that the Board of Trustees
approve a change in our tuition policy which will create a "flat
rate" tuition for a block of credit hours. For example,
an undergraduate student will be able to take 12 to 16 credit
hours for the same tuition rate, and the block for graduate students
will be 10 to 12 hours.
While we are not prepared to recommend next year's tuition
rate at this time, WMU is prepared to assist students with this
flat rate plan which, in turn, enables them to complete degrees
more quickly and at less total cost.
3. I am continuing the institution's action to strengthen
enrollment management and student retention. As you may know,
we have initiated several efforts this year to strengthen our
enrollment management. We have created an enrollment division,
placing formal leadership for the integration of admissions,
financial aid, records and registration, academic support services,
and the First-Year Experience with one senior administrative
Our new First-Year Experience program will serve 600 beginning
students this fall. We know from research that students so engaged
have higher persistence rates, improved campus involvement, and
usually earn higher GPAs. These are qualities in students we
are deliberately seeking.
Also, we are working to integrate graduate student and international
student recruitment and admissions into a more effective University-wide
system. This effort will require assistance from all academic
departments across the campus.
Further, we have reconfigured the Medallion Scholarship program,
established a new scholarship initiative for transfer students
with an associate's degree, and added scholarship funds for both
merit and need-based assistance.
In addition, we have increased summer course offerings and
are expanding our on-line course portfolio, both of which should
provide additional student access to courses.
And finally, the investment we have made in a replacement
student information system will effectively support and integrate
all such enrollment activities. Many of you, in every division
of the University, have worked long and intense hours to make
this happen in nine short months. We simply could not make these
continuing advancements without your dedication.
Everyone's commitment to increasing enrollment will result
in more beginning students annually. And of course, the companion
issue to the recruitment of students is student retention once
they are enrolled at WMU. While providing access for students,
supporting their financial need, and supplying the necessary
classes for students who wish to move through programs in a more
timely fashion will help, I must also ask for your continued
and serious efforts to retain our students.
These three near-term actions will assist with our strategic
transition over the next few years. The cost of these actions
raises the question as to how we can grow our enrollment while
we are losing funding. I believe we have few acceptable alternatives
given our increasing dependence on tuition as the major source
of institutional revenue.
Concurrently, the fourth near-term action is to reduce the
probable 2005-06 year's deficit. Let me reiterate our long-standing
1. Protect direct instruction while providing essential services
that support the academic mission.
2. Protect permanent employees as much as possible. You are
a vital part of the University so the first step is to minimize
filling new positions.
3. Retain our commitment to no layoffs of tenured or tenure
track faculty. At the same time, however, we will curtail or
eliminate all term appointments whenever possible.
4. Assign reduction targets by program or service function
rather than across the board percentages. During the past two
years, academic affairs has accounted for 68 percent of the general
fund budget yet took only a 3.3 percent base budget reduction.
However, this time, in making reductions for the 2005-06 year,
academic affairs will have a larger overall reduction in order
to protect those essential services that make our university--and
our students' lives--better.
5. Hold the vice presidents and other senior staff accountable
for the specific budget reductions for the 2005-06 year which
will be assigned by the end of this month.
As you can see, we can neither just cut nor just grow our
way out of this budget dilemma. Despite how difficult this may
be, we must both cut expenses and increase enrollment simultaneously
in order to keep the University moving forward.
In addition to these initial actions, there are longer-term
strategic issues that also must be addressed by the fall semester
of the 2006-07 academic year.
First, I am asking the provost and deans in consultation with
the faculty to establish a more focused array of academic programs,
especially in terms of our graduate offerings. Over the past
15 years, the University has added 20 master's-level programs
and 21 doctoral programs. In doing so, we sought to move academic
areas ahead in research and scholarship across the board simultaneously.
Even with the addition of these new graduate programs, graduate
student enrollment has slowly declined by 1,050 students from
fall 1989 to fall 2004. Obviously this graduate program growth
strategy must be re-evaluated.
The University needs to continue graduate programs of strength,
substance, and demand where we have the capacity to sustain such
programs. Some graduate programs in this category are already
nationally recognized, externally accredited, or are stars in
their own right. In other instances, we should consolidate degree
programs or, in some cases, eliminate programs. The faculty and
academic leadership in the departments and colleges are responsible
for making these decisions. Therefore, I ask that this review,
department by department and for all graduate degree programs,
be conducted expeditiously with decisions made in time to affect
program offerings for the 2006-07 academic year.
Second, I am reiterating my earlier challenge to double externally
funded research and tech transfer. I do this knowing that this
goal has been widely discussed and debated. I believed then that
we can do this, and I believe today that it is even more essential.
We need to grow our graduate education and research portfolio
where there are synergies among disciplines and external funding
to support related research.
To help accomplish this, rather than use one presidential
research hire in four different departments to start or complement
a program, we need to target several hires in areas where we
have strength but lack depth and where there is also potential
for commercializing the research. WMU has been identified by
the State as a university responsive to the needs of business
and industry with faculty who are interested in research partnerships
that result in product commercialization. This is an area in
which the State is investing new funds and one where WMU excels.
Third, I am also asking the provost, the Faculty Senate, the
faculty and others to examine all degree requirements. We must
ensure that when the general education requirements are added
to any major program of study, we do not require so many courses
that students have difficulty completing program requirements
in a timely fashion.
And fourth, genuine consideration should be given to differentiated
workloads among the faculty. While our institutional enrollment
has declined, the total number of bargaining unit faculty, term
appointments, and department chair FTEs has increased.
Thus, to extend our instructional capacity and to protect
the core tenure track and tenured faculty, I am asking the provost
and deans to work with the faculty and departmental chairs, in
accordance with the AAUP contract, to find more creative ways
to meet the instructional needs of all students.
Finally, I am requesting that each vice president conduct
a comprehensive review of all positions and organizational processes.
Wherever possible, tasks should be consolidated and processes
streamlined to achieve greater student responsiveness.
We are actively working to address our financial concerns.
Other steps, especially academic program adjustments, will take
place during the next academic year. I urge and ask the Faculty
Senate and the AAUP Chapter to help us move forward together.
Time is not our friend--the longer we wait, the more difficult
it will be to make decisions that secure our future and make
the University financially as well as academically strong. No
one--not the state, federal government or tuition-paying students--will
do this work for us. Nor should they make our institutional and
academic decisions. However, if we do not act, those decisions
will be made for us. Then our focus becomes balancing the budget
without due consideration of our institutional vision, necessary
and important services, and the impact on our students.
One additional step that I am taking is to seek advice from
other public universities that have been through similar situations.
I believe it helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at WMU--our
administrative structure, our processes, and our future plans--and
provide guidance and counsel to the senior leadership team. Several
of you will be invited to meet with Dr. Kenneth Shaw, Chancellor
Emeritus of Syracuse University while he is on campus this month
Just as time is not on our side, neither is our reluctance
to change. To move forward, we must look beyond the scope of
our individual department, program, research or scholarly activity
to the broader university. Western Michigan University has sustained
itself for 102 years, and will for another 102 years. It is the
common good, not individual agendas that has made this university
great and allowed it to become far more than a normal school,
a teachers college, or a comprehensive university.
Neither you nor I are willing to walk away from a vision and
mission that those before us have built over years. Yet, you
and I together must focus our work in ways that will move the
University forward in a financially responsible manner. This
is not easy to do, but we will succeed. Growth will take time,
perhaps longer than we had hoped. But staying the course, and
seeing each step along the way as essential to moving ahead,
must be our common agenda.
You and I are at Western Michigan University because we have
a common vision--that of WMU as a nationally recognized public
If we take a moment to really look at the vision--to bring
it to life through a word picture--we see faculty and staff engaged
with students in a learning community that supports student success
in the classroom, the research lab, the arts and performance
venues, the residence halls, and the sports venues. We embrace
different experiences, engage with our colleagues in earnest
on difficult issues, and support one another through changes.
We work in facilities that are new or being renewed.
Most of all, we see Western Michigan University becoming an
academically stronger university with a growing student population.
Our students will be challenged in and out of the classroom to
embrace a lifetime of learning. Our faculty will be nationally
and internationally known for excellence in selected research
areas that are strengthened by our graduate students' involvement.
The state, business, and industry will partner with us to bring
new ideas to the market place, enhancing both the economy and
WMU's support for research and commercialization activity. Our
graduates will be valued for the depth of their expertise in
their majors and the breadth of their experiences through internships
and co-curricular activities.
Robert Frost reminds us that we have a choice between two
roads--two roads to our future. The one less traveled is often
the more difficult path to walk, and we may stumble at times
and some may falter. But if we stay together on the road, focus
on our journey together, taking the road less traveled will indeed
make all the difference for future WMU faculty, staff and students.
Thank you. Now let us move forward together.
Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, email@example.com
Office of University Relations
Western Michigan University
1903 W Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5433 USA