Central Michigan University President George E. Ross testified before a Senate panel on campus this afternoon, highlighting the university’s focus on educating Michigan natives who then secure employment and choose to stay in Michigan after graduation.
“Ninety-five percent of our students hail from this Great Lakes state,” Ross said. “And when they graduate, about 76 percent opt to stay in Michigan and make a difference for our residents, businesses and communities.”
The Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education selected CMU to host its first hearing on state funding for Michigan’s 15 public universities.
Ross said state funding for CMU has plummeted from a high of 75 percent of the university’s budget to 17 percent today, adding that if CMU operated on state funding alone, the money would run out in 62 days.
“This decrease clearly means that students and their parents carry a heavier burden,” Ross said. “Still, CMU has maintained the lowest cumulative tuition increase of all of Michigan’s public universities the past five years.”
Ross punctuated his testimony by asking senators for equity in per-pupil funding, with dollars following students at a rate that is the same, no matter which university they attend.
“Let’s finally address a per-student funding disparity that ranges from $2,800 to $8,100 per student among Michigan’s 15 publics,” Ross said.
“CMU is fifth from the bottom, receiving $3,600 per student. I don’t believe for a minute that you think students at CMU are worth nearly $5,000 less per person than their peers at some of our sister institutions.”
President Ross introduced CMU College of Medicine student Barbara Buehler of Delton to the senate committee. She is one of just 56 medical students across the nation receiving a National Health Service Corps Scholarship.
Buehler said being a physician in a rural Michigan community was her childhood dream, even though being a medical specialist such as a neurosurgeon would be more lucrative.
“Central Michigan University's College of Medicine is priming me as future physician to serve those who are residents of Michigan - and they're doing that by allowing us to be educated in the very environments where we will be working,” said Buehler, who will gain clinical experience next year in Sheridan, near Greenville. “I am so very grateful for that experience, as it is unique among medical schools today.”
Engineering student Kyle McPherson, of Galesburg, also spoke. McPherson just completed an internship project with Master Craft, where he helped create the center console for a $1.3 million, state-of-the-art boat. As a result, he has a job waiting for him after graduation.
“Your job is not work if it’s your passion, if you set your mind to do something, any obstacle can be overcome with the dedication to better yourself,” McPherson said.
Finally, President Ross introduced CMU alumnus and accounting department chair, Chad Stefaniak. Brigham Young University ranks Dr. Stefaniak 15th in the world in his area of experimental audit research and among the top 5 percent globally in all accounting research disciplines.
Stefaniak is a 2002 CMU alum, who earned his master’s and PhD at the University of Alabama. He went off to teach at Oklahoma State and came back to lead our accounting apartment in 2013.
Stefaniak testified that the four leading accounting firms in Michigan actively recruit CMU students.
“They’ve told me that students at other larger Michigan universities are often interested in leaving the state upon graduation, hoping to be placed in the same firms, but in offices in Chicago, New York and L.A.,” Stefaniak said. “CMU students, on the other hand, are not only comfortable living in Michigan, they want to stay in Michigan long-term. We connect students to Michigan business, and they help those Michigan businesses grow.”
Ross concluded by saying higher education is a catalyst that fuels economic growth.
“Higher education fosters the critical thinking of students who will lead our industries and organizations of tomorrow,” Ross said. “Please join me in advocating for Michigan’s youth, helping transform their lives with a university degree — so they can go forth and put their stamp on the world.”
A transcript of President Ross’ full testimony is