OPINION: College of Medicine, once promised to be self-sustainable, remains deeply in the red (UPDATED)

CMU has subsidized the College of Medicine to the tune of more than $40 million since 2009-10. (Source: CMU operating budgets.)
CMU has subsidized the College of Medicine to the tune of more than $40 million since 2009-10. (Source: CMU operating budgets.)

Editor’s note (April 23, 2015): This piece has been updated to properly reflect the College of Medicine’s 2014-15 subsidy. It is $11 million, not $19.3 million as previously stated. We regret the error.

By John Irwin

When former President Michael Rao pushed for the College of Medicine in 2008, he said Central Michigan University would only have to provide a one-time investment to get it going.

The new medical school, according to CMU administrators at the time, was to be “self-supporting.” After some initial, one-time investments from the university, Rao and other leaders anticipated the college to sustain itself via tuition.

CMED was going to support itself.

That hasn’t turned out to be the case so far.

According to the university’s 2014-15 operating budget, CMED is projected to bring in about $7.2 million in revenue this year. That means CMED, with an annual operating budget of $18.3 million, operates $11 million in the hole.

If that figure was distributed among CMU’s 27,069 students, including those studying part-time and via Global Campus, each one would owe $408 to the university.

There are few programs that are a greater drag on the university’s budget, as the list below shows. Only the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, Global Campus, Facilities Management, the athletics department and computing support require more subsidization from CMU than the medical school.

Departments with more than $10 million in university support

  1. Office of Finance and Student Aid ($34.3 million)
  2. Global Campus ($25 million)
  3. Facilities Management ($21.6 million)
  4. Athletics ($18.4 million)
  5. Computing Support ($11.3 million)
  6. College of Medicine ($11 million)

Like athletics, the College of Medicine is a heavy investment that most students at CMU get little-to-no direct use out of. While the investment will decline over the next three years as more tuition revenue flows in, CMED still has a lot of work to do in order to become self-sustainable.

Let’s hope administrators are able to pull that off, since the college was sold to the CMU community as a self-sustaining entity years ago. So far, though, millions have been spent on subsidizing the college, and that appears to continue being the case for the foreseeable future. That means CMU is leaving students, the vast majority of whom graduate from the university thousands of dollars in debt, on the hook for a school they get little or nothing out of.


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