The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees today was updated on successes of the past academic year and then approved major strategies and initiatives for the current fiscal year.
President George E. Ross highlighted several achievements in his annual report to the board, including:
- CMU's four-year graduation rate increased from 21.9 percent to 27.4 percent.
- The percentage of CMU graduates employed, enrolled in graduate programs, or in the military or volunteer positions six months postgraduation increased from 90.7 percent to 92 percent.
- Gifts received from alumni and friends of the university exceeded $20 million for the second year in a row, with a total of $21.3 million.
- External grant funding of faculty and student research increased from $12.5 million to $13.6 million.
Ross addressed this year's priorities, including the three imperatives in the 2022 Strategic Plan, Academic Excellence. Those are: nurturing student success, fostering scholarly activity, and strengthening partnerships in Michigan and beyond.
Highlights include the academic organizational review, as well as the process to reduce degree credit hours across the university to 120, to ensure more students can graduate in four years, and with less debt. Planning has begun for these initiatives, and trustees were updated on their progress at committee meetings Wednesday.
Ross reached out to faculty and other community members, urging their participation in the review of the university's academic organization. This two-year review process will ensure CMU's academic structure enhances the ability to deliver a quality education and best serves the needs of CMU students as they prepare to be highly employable, have rewarding careers and contribute to their communities.
Other major initiatives underway include:
- Completing the implementation of recommendations from the Online Academic Programs Committee.
- Launching the public phase of CMU's comprehensive capital campaign.
- Reviewing and revising the responsibility centered management budget model.
Updates at board committee meetings Wednesday included the Center for Integrated Health Studies building project and the June flooding and recovery. The board also learned the university outperformed its peers by earning a 13.1 percent return on its endowment investments in fiscal year 2017.
Diversity and inclusion recommendations
Trustees also received recommendations of the Equity and Inclusion Task Force, which was co-chaired by Shaun Holtgreive, executive director of student affairs, and René Shingles, chair of CMU's School of Rehabilitation and Medical Sciences. The recommendations were:
- Changing the associate vice president for institutional diversity title to chief diversity officer, having this individual report to the president and making the position part of the president's cabinet.
- Changing Diversity Education to Diversity Education, Advocacy and Engagement.
- Changing and restructuring the Office of Institutional Diversity to Centers for Inclusion and Intercultural Engagement.
- Facilitating universitywide programs and cross-unit partnerships to deepen education for all university constituents about matters of equity and inclusion.
- Establishing a standing diversity and inclusion committee.
- Updating CMU's diversity and inclusion strategic plan.
Ross stressed the importance of this initiative and said the task force's recommendations are being reviewed and discussed by the cabinet.
"Inclusivity is one of our core values," Ross said. "The world in which we live and that we send our students into is most diverse. A diverse learning community makes a stronger community."
Trustees receive annual audit
Plante Moran, the university's external audit firm, also presented the trustees with a clean, unmodified audit opinion — with the highest level of assurance.
"It is significant that we have once again earned a clean audit opinion," Ross said. "This positive audit result reflects the hard work of leaders across campus who continue to manage their budgets and align expenditures with revenues.
"This audit report shows the strong financial discipline we have at our university. We have to ensure we maintain this discipline going forward," Board of Trustees Chair Bill Weideman said.
Plante Moran partner Katie Thornton noted that CMU has recorded a significant liability of $137 million for its share of future pension costs for the Michigan Public School Employees' Retirement System. Recording of a health care liability will occur in 2018 and also is expected to run in the millions of dollars.
The state MPSERS pension system is underfunded, creating an enormous liability for Michigan's K-12 schools, community colleges and seven public universities. The mandated recording of the liability has created a deficit for several universities.
CMU has managed its resources well, however, and while the liability will dramatically reduce the university's unrestricted net assets, Central will not incur a deficit.
In other business, trustees also approved nearly 1,000 students for graduation this past August.
The president's opening report to the board highlighted CMU's 125th anniversary and the university's new premier partnerships with Ford Motor Co. and Quicken Loans.