GVSU tuition increases for 2017-18 academic year

Dylan Grosser

Grand Valley State University will be increasing its annual undergraduate tuition across the board for the 2017-18 school year.

The cost of tuition for in-state, lower-division students—students who have earned 54 credits or fewer—is $11,994 for 2017-18, while it was $11,520 for 2016-17. This is an increase of $474 for the academic year, or an increase of approximately 4.11 percent.

In-state, upper-division students—students who have earned 55 credits or more—now pay $12,618 per year, compared to $12,144 last academic year. This is likewise a $474 increase for the year, or an approximately 3.9 percent increase. Lower-division non-Michigan residents pay $17,064 per year, compared to $16,392 last year, and upper-division non-Michigan residents pay $17,688 per year, compared to $17,010 last year.

The bid to increase tuition was approved by the Board of Trustees in order to accommodate the 2017-18 budget, which is $349 million (with financial aid subtracted), whereas the 2016-17 budget was $340 million.

Matt McLogan, the vice president for university relations at GVSU, said the increasing tuition prices at GVSU are due to a lack of funding for higher education by the state of Michigan. GVSU created a model in the 2016-17 accountability report to represent how much appropriations would be worth if they were counted on a per-student basis. GVSU received $3,040 per student in 2016-17, placing second-to-last out of all other colleges in Michigan, only higher than Oakland University, which received $2,868 per student. The 2016-17 GVSU accountability report shows the state average for funding for Michigan colleges is $5,345 per student.

The state of Michigan does hand out a portion of funding based on university performance. For the coming academic year, GVSU received the highest amount of appropriations for performance in the state, $1.8 million, that is tied to retention rate, graduation rate, the number of degrees handed out in STEM fields, etc. McLogan said the amount only accounts for three-tenths of one percent of the university’s total budget.

“We appreciate the affirmation of our higher-quality operation and our great students, but it doesn’t produce a lot of money,” he said.

In 1977, 66.9 percent of the cost to attend GVSU was provided by the state of Michigan, while only 33.1 percent of the cost was placed on students. In 2016, the state of Michigan paid 17.9 percent of the cost to attend GVSU, while the other 82.1 percent was paid for by students.

The state of Michigan funds K-12 education and community colleges based on enrollment; however, enrollment is not a factor in determining funding for higher education. McLogan said the number of appropriations the state hands out per student is based on historical models that are outdated and do not reflect the progress GVSU has made in the last 30 years, especially in enrollment.

“The legislature doesn’t consider to any great degree program mix or changes in enrollment,” he said. “We do get a little tip of the hat because Grand Valley produces so many STEM graduates, but while that’s a priority for the state, they’ve not put much money behind it.”

McLogan said GVSU receives many compliments from the legislature for the way the university is run but still no large upticks in funding.

Brian Copeland, associate vice president for business and finance at GVSU, said if the legislature were to fund GVSU at the state average of $5,345 per student, tuition would go down.

“If we were funded at that level, we would not be increasing tuition,” Copeland said. “That would be an additional $50 million in revenue for the university.”

When Gov. Rick Snyder was elected in 2011, in order to cut costs in the state budget, he cut funding for higher education by 15 percent across the board. While the state has been steadily increasing funding for higher education since then, Michigan still ranks at a low 45 out of 49 reporting states in the U.S. for funding of higher education. A majority of the Michigan budget is spent on maintaining roads and prisons.

Taylor Thompson was a fifth-year student at GVSU when she learned she could no longer attend GVSU because of financial reasons. She said her financial aid this year will not pay for the full amount of her tuition, and she theorized that the rising costs are to blame for it. She said her parents do not make a lot of money and she does not have enough credit to apply for a loan by herself.

Thompson said she was not told of any remaining balances on her student account until a week before the money was due. She said she is frustrated by the financial aid system at GVSU, as well as the rising prices of higher education.

“I understand that they have their reasons for (raising tuition), but at the same time, it’s stopping me from finishing what I’ve already started and what I’ve already paid so much money to do,” Thompson said.

Thompson said she is relying on financial aid for her housing as well, and without being able to attend GVSU full time, she said she is potentially facing homelessness.

“It’s kind of hard to understand where they’re coming from when it feels like they don’t understand where we’re coming from with not being able to afford it, and it’s already so expensive no matter what we do,” Thompson said.

Nati Worku is a junior at GVSU and is also frustrated with rising tuition prices. He said corporations like Amazon.com are given state grants and tax breaks, yet the cost for attending higher education keeps going up.

“I think it’s ludicrous,” he said. “The state needs to reevaluate its priorities because education should come first, and if we continue down this path, the outcome will be disastrous.”

Kim LaSata is a Michigan state representative who sits on the Higher Education Appropriations Committee. LaSata said she is an advocate for the need to make higher education more affordable, yet also said there is only “so much money in the pot.”

“The universities that we have, they’re great universities; they’re a big benefit to our state,” she said. “If we don’t fund them, there are going to be more kids who cannot afford to go to college.”

She said increasing funding might be an issue of getting more Republicans in the legislature to take a second look at higher education. She said one of the biggest issues she is concerned about is the apparent suppression of conservative student voices in higher education institutions. She said if colleges like GVSU show they are trying to be inclusive of all opinions, other conservatives in the legislature might take a closer look at them.

“I think if the universities were to go down that path and start showing that they are trying to work towards a campus that’s basically all-inclusive and open to all ideas and that they’re trying to get their faculty to do the same, I think (other Republicans) would maybe look at them differently,” LaSata said.

GVSU is not the only college in Michigan to be increasing its tuition. Western Michigan University is increasing its tuition by the same dollar amount as GVSU, Michigan State University is increasing its annual tuition by $407 and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is increasing its annual tuition by $424.