Behind the mask

For her final project in Journalism 410, Samantha Sebestyen produced a video, “Behind the mask,” documenting how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced almost every aspect of students’ lives. Among her peers, she saw mental health issues rise because of the many months of isolation and the additional layers of stress that negatively affected already chaotic lifestyles. “In the past two years, college students have had to deal with the pandemic on top of continuing their education,” Sebestyen said. “On the campus of Michigan State University, a school that went fully online for two and a half semesters and has ever changing COVID policies, students still work to find that balance between working and keeping their mental health in mind.” “Throughout the course of a few weeks, I was able to discuss with several of my close peers to see exactly what they did when things took such a heavy toll on their mental and physical well beings,” she continued.

Colleges eye higher tuition for honors, high-cost programs

Capital News Service
LANSING — To cover the costs of honors and higher-priced degree programs, public universities across the state are moving toward differential tuition, charging more for programs that are more expensive to deliver, have a high demand or high job placement according to a report by the Presidents Council. Undergraduate programs such as engineering, health sciences, business administration and computer science all require more funding, whether it be for lab equipment, smaller class sizes or a higher faculty to student ratio. And some public universities are requiring students to pay out-of-pocket for those curricula. “Although it has been a slow-growing practice in American public higher education in the past decade, the primary rationale is to charge students more of a market rate for specific programs or groups of programs they’re enrolled in, especially those that cost more to run,” said Dan Hurley, chief executive officer of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan. Although the 15 public institutions in the state set their own tuition, those with differential tutition charge engineering majors more than a cheaper-to-educate English major, whether they’re coming from in or out-of-state.

Less state money means colleges, students struggle

Capital News Service
LANSING — State funding for higher education has seen a dramatic reduction in the past few decades — and students are feeling the budget squeeze. Despite increases in the past four years, Michigan spending on higher education is still 4 percent below 2011 when funds were slashed – and still lagging nearly 28 percent behind pre-recession funding, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a policy institute based in Washington, D.C.
That amounts to an average $1,631 less per student than in 2008. “When one looks at the long view of state investment in higher education, it marks a rather dramatic decline,” said Daniel Hurley, chief executive officer of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, which lobbies on behalf of the 15 state universities. Representative and Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee member Jeff Irwin, D–Ann Arbor, said the lack of funding for higher education is irresponsible. “Higher education used to be a tool used by the public through state government to enhance social mobility, to give people a hand up, to give people an opportunity to develop their skills and contribute more to their community and to their family, and the state government has turned its back on that responsibility,” he said.

Who won in Gov. Rick Snyder’s budget proposal?

Capital News Service
LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal came on the heels of an executive order that cut $106 million from the current budget, and legislators are now considering slashing $100 million more to address an unexpected deficit. Next year could be even worse, as the state could take in more than a half a billion dollars less than originally expected in 2016. As a result, nearly all programs and departments are facing cuts. But Snyder has favored several programs with a proposed budget increase. Here is a look at some of the winners in Snyder’s budget.

High price tag of college draws concern, ideas

Capital News Service
LANSING – A statewide discussion is underway on how students pay for tuition at public, private and community colleges. College affordability, an ongoing subject of debate, gained considerable momentum when President Barack Obama highlighted the topic while speaking at the University of Michigan last year. And a State of the State Survey from Michigan State University found that while 95 percent of residents believe a college education is “very important” for success, affordability is a barrier for many. The report, “A Look at the College-Going Culture of Michigan Adults,” indicated that 67 percent of residents “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree” that a college education is reasonably affordable for people in the state. Brandy Johnson, executive director of the Michigan College Access Network (MCAN), said she was thrilled by such ambition but discouraged with the financial struggle students and their families face.

College degrees pay off, new study shows

Capital News Service
LANSING – A four-year college degree is still worth paying for – even during recession years, a recent study shows. The Pew Charitable Trust concluded that during the recession, recent college grads had a lower unemployment rate than their counterparts with only high school diplomas or associate’s degrees, and the reason was largely not because they took pay cuts or accepted jobs they were overqualified for. “It’s indisputable that a full college education puts people at a better economic standing,” said Rep. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo, a member of the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee. The national study shows that although bachelor’s degree holders experienced a 7 percent decline in employment, a 5 percent decline in wages and a 3 percent decline in the number working in college-level jobs during the recession, they were still much better protected than their less-educated counterparts. “This shows that we really need to continue to invest in higher education and all education as a public good and as a way to increase prosperity,” McCann said.

Universities innovate, cut costs as state aid drops

Capital News Service
LANSING – Public universities in north and west Michigan are trying to become smarter with their money as state appropriations continue to decline and other revenue sources fail to pick up the slack. Money-saving efforts range from reducing energy use at Grand Valley State University to smarter energy purchasing at Northern Michigan University and Ferris State University to paperless offices at Northern and controlling administrative costs at Grand Valley. All revenue sources, including state appropriations, federal spending on research and student aid, endowments and philanthropy are declining. Tuition revenue isalso down at some universities, higher tuition rates have not been able to make up for lower enrollment, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, according to a recent report from Moody Investors Service. Public university officials agreed that shrinking state funding is their biggest revenue problem.

Number of graduate students dips in Michigan

Capital News Service
LANSING – U.S. graduate schools saw a 1.7 percent dip in enrollments of first-time students between fall 2010 and fall 2011, marking the second consecutive year of slight decreases, according to a recent national report. The main reasons for the decline can be attributed to the economic cycle and policy changes. Overall, according to the survey, more than 441,000 students began graduate studies in fall 2011. First-time enrollment in master’s and certificate programs declined 2.1 percent, while doctoral programs enrolled 0.5 percent more new students. According to the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, 67,711 graduate students are enrolled in 15 public universities in the state, which is a slight decrease of 0.8 percent compared to last year.

Community colleges work to facilitate developmental education

Capital News Service
LANSING – About 60 percent of students who show up at a community college need at least one developmental course in math, English or reading, according to Michigan Community College Association President Michael Hansen.
Hansen said, “A large percentage of those students – if they make it out of their developmental education sequence – their chances for actually completing a degree are much lower than the students that don’t get placed in.”
And Jenny Schanker, associate director of the Michigan Center for Student Success, said a strategy community colleges are using to alleviate that problem is communication with their K-12 partners. Schanker said there are two sets of people who need developmental courses – traditional students, 24 and younger, who didn’t do well and scored low on the ACT and placement tests coming into college, and adults, 25 and older, who have been out of college for some time. Many in the second category are displaced workers who come back to be retrained for a new career but may not have finished high school. One major initiative community colleges are engaged in is Achieving the Dream, a national effort to increase student success. Schanker said 17 Michigan schools have joined, including Macomb, Oakland, Montcalm, Jackson and Grand Rapids community colleges.

Community colleges boost out-of-state enrollments, revenue

Capital News Service
LANSING – Community colleges in Michigan are enrolling more out-of-state students and international students, a trend that may add dollars to their budgets. Among 28 community colleges, 21 have an out-of-state and international tuition rate twice as high as in-district tuition, according to the Michigan Community College Association. For example, tuition at Lansing Community College this fall is $81 per credit hour for in-district students, $162 for out-of-district students and $243 for out-of-state and international students. Tuition at Northwestern Michigan Community College is similar: $84.60 per credit hour for in-district students, $165.90 for out-of-district students and $212.45 for out-of-state and international students. Mike Hansen, president of the association, said many colleges are targeting students who pay higher tuition rates, at least in part to solve their serious budget problems.
He said it’s hard to keep up with rising costs.