Board of Trustees approves land acknowledgement, WMU becomes first Michigan university to acknowledge land's past

WMU's Board of Trustees.

The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees unanimously approved for no increase in tuition for the 2020-2021 fiscal year in its meeting Thursday, Sept. 17. This decision is made despite a projected shortfall budget of $76 million.  

This budget is based on a previous estimation of an $85 million shortfall, an approximation used prior to receiving the final numbers of enrollment. WMU’s fall enrollment was 20,490, less than a third of the predicted decrease. 

President Edward Montgomery said despite the better-than-expected enrollment numbers, the university cannot dismiss the continuing negative effects of COVID-19. 

“There are indeed sizable challenges facing us,” Montgomery said. “While this has required us all to make difficult decisions, by being proactive, we’re laying a solid foundation for the future of our institution.” 

Roughly 72% of the university revenue is derived from tuition and fees. WMU is one of a few public universities to not raise tuition and fees this year. 

“To help alleviate some of [students] financial strain, we kept tuition flat,” Montgomery said. 

At its June meeting, the board passed a 90-day continuation of the 2019-2020 budget to allow for clarity in enrollment numbers and state budget. 

“We weren’t sure about enrollment, what student’s response would be because of concerns of safety,” Board Treasurer Jan Van Der Kley said.

Van Der Kley said the board used the previous $45-85 million shortfall estimation in planning across campus. 

“We actually implemented plans based on that scenario and the majority of those were actually in place and functional at the close of June 30, 2020,” Van Der Kley said. 

The state made the election to reduce state appropriations for the 2019-2020 year by 11%, or $12.5 million. With limits, the federal CARES Act funding assisted in the reduction by covering certain expenses. 

The university is also maintaining a conservative budget, assuming a 20% reduction in state appropriations. 

The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Nov. 5.

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