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WMU costs remain below state average

July 25, 2008

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees has approved a 9.2 percent increase in tuition and required fees along with a corresponding increase of more than $3.7 million to the University's financial aid budget.

Acting at its July 25 meeting, the WMU board approved a tuition increase that, coupled with a small fee increase approved earlier in the year, will mean a full-time Michigan freshman or sophomore will pay $7,928 to attend WMU for the 2008-09 academic year--an increase of $668 for the year or $334 per semester. The increase is effective with the fall 2008 semester.

2008-09 tuition and fees

"This is a decision that was necessary to keep WMU sound and whole and able to deliver on the promise that brings students to our campus," said Board Chair Ken Miller. "It also is a decision that, despite the increase, will mean WMU will maintain its position as Michigan's most affordable research university."

Trustees approved the measure, noting that the new increase, paired with WMU's 2007 increase that was the smallest of any of Michigan's public universities, keeps WMU in the position of remaining as accessible as possible to the widest range of Michigan residents while maintaining the quality of programs and access to top faculty members that WMU students expect. In related action, trustees also approved a University operating budget that includes a $3,761,275 increase to the University's financial aid budget to help offset the prospect of financial strain on students and their families.

"We are determined to maintain access and work with families to keep their WMU experience as affordable as possible," WMU President John M. Dunn told the board as it was considering the increase. "We also are determined to preserve the level of quality for which WMU is known and protect the resources that are essential for students who want the opportunities and learning environment found at a research university. While we can and have worked creatively to operate with revenue levels lower than those found at smaller and less complex institutions, we cannot serve our students or our state unless we continue to preserve the caliber of our undergraduate and graduate programs."

Over the past two years, WMU has enacted among the lowest increases of any of Michigan's 15 public universities, and the lowest increases of any of the state's five research universities. Although 2008-09 costs have not yet been set for all of Michigan's public institutions, WMU is expected to remain among the five or six most affordable universities in Michigan and will be the only research university in that group. Michigan's five Carnegie-designated research schools are WMU; Michigan State, Michigan Technological and Wayne State universities; and the University of Michigan.

"Our focus will remain on operating within as tight a budget as possible and finding ways to move students to graduation in the quickest and most efficient way we can," Dunn said. "The Western Edge, a program we adopted last year, is designed to do just that and is attracting the attention of students and their families because they realize the biggest savings will come from avoiding an extra semester or an extra year of tuition and housing while they complete a degree."

The Western Edge, announced in July 2007, is an initiative that includes incentives to encourage students to be successful and stay on track toward graduation. It includes a freeze on students' entering room-and-board rates for up to four years, a $500 incentive scholarship for students who complete 30 credits during their first year and earn a 3.0 GPA or better, a graduation compact designed to ensure class availability for participating students, and a number of other advising and academic support programs.

In outlining the need for this year's increase, Dunn pointed to a number of contributing factors, and he laid out the steps the University has already taken to contain costs and reduce its annual operating budget. He noted that WMU and the rest of Michigan's public universities will receive a 1 percent increase in state appropriations for 2008-09 at a time when the overall inflation rate is rapidly escalating.

WMU, Dunn noted, has enacted budget reductions of more than $50 million since 2002, resulting in a 19 percent cumulative budget reduction across the university. In addition, over the past decade, WMU has avoided more than $18 million in new energy expenditures through aggressive energy savings initiatives. Administrative overhead at WMU, Dunn pointed out, is the second lowest among Michigan universities.

"We will continue to save and streamline our operations in any way possible, as long as those efforts do not harm our core mission of providing opportunities for our students to be successful," Dunn said.

Details of the newly enacted cost structure can be found at www.wmich.edu/tuition. It includes a tuition flat rate of $3,610 per semester for lower-division WMU undergraduates, along with per-semester full-time student fees of $354. The new fee structure includes a $9 per semester student assessment fee increase approved by trustees in April. That increase was approved at the request of the WMU Student Association after a campuswide student referendum approved the request.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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