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Week of March 25, 2013

Pollack outlines the affordability challenge in higher education

To preserve former President James B. Angell’s commitment to provide “an uncommon education for the common man,” U-M must maintain its focus on aggressive cost control, find new sources of revenue and continue to make student financial aid a priority.

That was the message Vice Provost Martha Pollack delivered during a Board of Regents meeting March 21 with a presentation on the affordability and value of a U-M education.

Pollack

Pollack said a U-M education has great value in today’s marketplace.

She highlighted the excellent return on investment for those attending U-M, noting that over a lifetime of earnings, a U-M graduate earns at least $500,000 more than a high-achieving high school graduate.

She said Bloomberg/Business Week has calculated the 30-year return on investment in a U-M education at a strong 11.8 percent for Michigan residents and 8.6 percent for out-of-state students. And she noted that college graduates have a far lower unemployment rate than those with a high school degree.

Pollack, who will succeed Phil Hanlon as provost in May, said university officials recognize that many families are struggling to pay for higher education. But she said it also is important that those families know that U-M is working to address college affordability.

She said U-M’s average net price has declined in each of the past five years and that U-M has among the slowest rates of growth in costs among public universities nationwide.

She said financial aid is a key component to keeping U-M accessible and that among public peer institutions, U-M provides the third highest amount of institutional aid in a state that offers the lowest amount of student aid.

She noted that the educational loan burden for undergraduates was going down as the university replaced loans with grants. U-M is the only university in Michigan and one of just a handful nationwide that provides 100 percent of the demonstrated financial need of state-resident students. About 70 percent of undergraduates from Michigan receive financial aid.

Pollack outlined a three-pronged approach to holding down tuition costs in the coming years. She said the university must continue its aggressive cost-control efforts that already have removed $235 million in recurring expenses from the general fund budget.

She said targeted donor support is key to holding down tuition costs. The university will launch a major fundraising campaign in the fall. While details are still being finalized, student support will be the campaign’s main focus. And she said developing alternative revenue sources also is an important part of the equation.

Pollack ended her presentation by outlining some of the steps required to preserve Angell’s vision for the university. She said U-M must:

• Assure exceptional quality and accessibility.

• Maintain the value of a U-M degree.

• Keep tuition costs as low as possible.

• Continue to hold financial aid as a highest priority.

• Help students and families limit educational debt.

• Continue to drive down costs and seek additional revenue streams.

• Advocate for strong state support.

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