Michigan lawmakers weigh in on costs

Senator Booher and Congressman Potvin visit Big Rapids during spring break.

While Ferris State University students have trekked to their spring break destinations, two Michigan congressmen arrived in Big Rapids absent of the college masses.

Senator Darwin Booher and State Representative Phil Potvin traveled from Lansing to attend the 75th anniversary ceremony of the Big Rapids Lions Club on Saturday night, with approximately 75 community members in attendance.

Although the Republican law makers did not visit with the intention to answer inquiries about Ferris, they explained financial responsibility amongst Michigan universities.

“Everybody has to cut back, and that’s what we’re asking our universities: Control your debt, your buildings, your overhead, because our kids can’t afford that,” Booher said.

Each lawmaker explained while they understand the problem, they defer the responsibility in deciding how to spend any revenue back to the university.

“We do not dictate to them (universities) that going across the cost of living like they have been doing lately is unacceptable,” Potvin said.
The renovation of the Rankin Center will cost the University a range between 30 to 35 million dollars, according to a November 2012 press release on Ferris’ website. The Rankin Center has not been renovated since 1987 and will be used to help recruit prospective students.

Ferris administrators claim that no new jump in tuition will be needed to cover the expenditure, as the school has saved a budgetary surplus, according to the November press release. Yet, in years past, large increases in tuition were instituted. Spanning the past 10 years, all but two fiscal years saw increases less than 4 percent.

“The amount of money going into our universities may stay level, but the total amount it costs to run a university has gone up faster,” Booher said.

In 2007-08 a new student saw an increase of over 17 percent in tuition from the year prior, according to Ferris’ Budgetary Planning and Analysis 2012 report, which shows tuition changes from the past 10 years. In the past decade, tuition has risen by 56 percent.

“Ferris does not expect speculative cash from the University Center operations to pay for the facility’s construction. Bookstore and dining operations should be profit centers and new opportunities for revenue will be explored, but these should not be major drivers of the program,” according to January 2012 Rankin Student Center-Visioning and Market Analysis.

Ferris has adhered to state legislature, which caps this year’s tuition rate increase to a maximum of 4 percent, with a financial penalty for any state university exceeding that figure, a policy outlined by Booher.

“It comes back to the universities themselves, instead of having the state helping to fund them. I think the colleges need to be doing a better job with the consultants to make sure that your on the right path, not wasting money,” Potvin said.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place Wednesday, March 22, at 1:30 p.m. The location is not yet known.