Numbers don’t lie

Some say statistics can be manipulated to tell whatever story you want to tell.

During the Fall 2010 semester, Ferris State University’s enrollment of 14,381 students ranked ninth amongst the 15 public universities in Michigan. Ferris’ enrollment has grown by 14.36 percent since the Fall 2006 semester. It would make sense then that the tuition and room and board fees it charges would carry a similar ranking. However, this is not the case.

According to the 2010-11 Fact Book published by the Office of Institutional Research and Testing at Ferris State University, Ferris has the fifth highest tuition rate for in-state undergraduates at $9,930 per year based on 15 credits per semester. Additionally, Ferris ranks second in room and board cost at $8,580. The total annual cost of $18,510 per year ranks fourth overall and is higher than Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Grand Valley State.

Ferris State University is operated as a not-for-profit organization and therefore does not report net income as a business would. However, all nonprofit organizations are required to publish and release financial statements. Ferris reported $183 million in total revenue during the 2010-11 fiscal year. Tuition and fees accounted for 71.7 percent of the university’s total revenue.

Since a nonprofit organization spends the same amount as it earns, its revenues and expenditures are equal. Of the $183 million spent during the 2010-11 fiscal year, 8.9 percent was spent toward student assistance. Ferris expended $128.9 million on salaries, wages and benefits for its employees.

Ferris State uses numbers to promote itself, just as any business or other university does. The marketing campaigns often show how enrollment is increasing rapidly and how the retention rate is 70 percent. They usually don’t mention the rising tuition or room and board costs.

All the numbers presented are accurate; they just get to choose which ones are mentioned. n