SACUA meets with UM Flint’s Chancellor to discuss declining enrollments and revenue
The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs practically met Monday afternoon to hear from Debasish Dutta, Chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint, on the state of the satellite campus nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The committee also discussed improving communication between members of the Senate Assembly and the Senate of the Faculty and their respective units. They also prioritized key issues to be addressed during a future interview with University Provost Susan M. Collins, such as plans for the fall semester of 2021 and the distribution of vaccines among students.
Dutta outlined the unique challenges facing the Flint campus, with its largely domestic student population, compared to the Ann Arbor campus, where roughly half of the students are from abroad. Dutta said he was concerned that the number of high school graduates in Michigan would rise continue to decline during this decade, reducing the pool of potential government students. With tuition fees as the main source of income, this poses a threat to the financial stability of the campus, Dutta said.
“As high school graduates lose weight, Ann Arbor gets more aggressive and Michigan State gets more aggressive,” said Dutta. “Who will lose?”
Additionally, Dutta said that Michigan’s UM Flint funds are limited. According to the college funds According to the report for fiscal year 2020-2021, Flint receives the second lowest government budget of over $ 23 million in Michigan public universities compared to the Ann Arbor campus budget of over $ 322 million.
Dutta said these differences were due in part to the novelty of the Flint satellite campus, which was founded in 1956. Given these financial challenges and a steady decline in enrollments over the past six years, Dutta said the Flint campus had two top priorities: improving public awareness and marketing for both students and adults, and striving for financial stability. In addition to cutting costs, Dutta emphasized the need to invest in programs that serve the adult market seeking online degrees, often offered by for-profit universities.
“If I just keep going (just cutting costs) it’s a race to the bottom,” said Dutta. “With all of the cost-cutting I’m doing, I’m going back to academics because if we don’t create programs that will be in demand for the future, even fewer students will come. We need to modernize our offerings … so that we can compete for the shrinking population of Michigan students. “
Information professor Kentaro Toyama asked if Dutta had considered the possibility of systematically subsidizing the Ann Arbor campus, alluding to SACUAs previous discussions on the One University Campaign. Toyama said he considered it a “shame” that the University of Michigan stopped investing in its regional locations.
Dutta said he doesn’t personally view Ann Arbor’s support as a priority, but thinks the question also depends on whether the campuses represent all one or three universities – a common topic of debate among SACUA as well as among students attending the 1U campaign.
“I don’t want Flint or any other institution to receive money just because you feel sorry for us,” said Dutta. “That won’t help us. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to be entrepreneurial. “
The 1U campaign was was launched in 2018 by students and faculties to distribute resources fairly across the three locations. Over the past few years, members of the 1U campaign have put pressure on administrators to expand resources such as a health service and the Go Blue Guarantee for Flint and Dearborn. SACUA has already spoken about urging the university to offer GBG at all three locations.
SACUA also discussed the agenda for their meeting next Monday, which Collins will attend. Annalisa Manera, an engineering professor and vice chair of SACUA, said there needs to be more transparency and detail about the fall semester plans and vaccine distribution.
“It’s pretty unclear at the moment,” said Manera. “Do you start with students? Do you start with the faculty? “
The administration of the university previously announced their optimism that the autumn semester 2021 would be “more normal” compared to the online learning of the current semester. Concrete plans for the fall semester are to be announced in mid-March.
In preparation for the meeting with Collins, SACUA Chairman Colleen Conway, professor at the School of Music, Drama and Dance, suggested that each SACUA representative communicate with the individual units, departments and colleges they represent. The committee had mixed ratings on how communicative members of the Senate Assembly are with their respective units. SACUA is the 9-member board of directors, while the Senate Assembly consists of 74 elected representatives who advise the university on questions of faculty interests.
“I must say that in my entire time at university I have not received any notice of anything from any member of the Senate Assembly in the LSA,” said Neil Marsh, professor in the medical school.
The next session of the Senate Assembly will take place on March 15th. May 10th is the last session of the semester.
The daily employee, Julianna Morano, can be reached at [email protected]
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