ANALYSIS: CMU is spending $151 million on facilities projects that less than one in five students will frequently use

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By John Irwin

The $11-million renovation and addition to Grawn Hall that the CMU Board of Trustees approved Thursday will directly impact a sizable swath of campus — unlike the other major construction projects currently in progress.

The project, financed via fundraising and university funds, was unanimously approved at the board meeting, coming after recent renovations to the building with costs totaling north of $500,000.

The Grawn Hall renovation, which would completely redo the building’s western exterior, modernize the Warriner Mall entrance and create 6,600 square feet of new space, is essentially an investment in the College of Business Administration. The college is housed in the 100-year-old building.

As of fall 2014, nearly 2,400 students had signed majors in the college, according to university documents. That’s about 20 percent of all undergraduate students who have signed majors and 12 percent of the overall on-campus enrollment figures.

Grawn Hall is essentially a home base of sorts for these students. The trustees decided — possibly aided by the reality that these students will be entering into high-paying fields, thus increasing the chances for fundraising down the road — that creating more space for business students is a high priority.

One can debate the merits of renovating Grawn now while other buildings on campus, including Moore, Pearce, Powers and Wightman halls, have received little attention in recent years. It’s also up for debate whether or not such drastic additions are even necessary considering the university’s declining enrollment numbers and budget problems.

But, as the numbers show, the $11 million project comes across as a bargain compared to the other major construction projects the university is currently investing in.

By dividing the project’s projected costs by the number of signed business majors, it turns out that CMU is investing an additional $4,600 in each business student with the Grawn renovation.

That’s little more than a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $95-million Biosciences Building currently under construction on campus. The building is designed to serve students and faculty in biological sciences when it opens in fall 2016.

As of fall 2014, 742 students had signed majors in biological fields of study. That’s 6.3 percent of the total undergraduate population and 3.7 percent of the on-campus population.

The biosciences building, therefore, is essentially a $128,000 per-student investment in biological studies, more than 2,000 times greater than the investment being put into business studies via construction costs.

Also under construction: Two Saginaw facilities for the new College of Medicine, which is already heavily subsidized by the university as Insider previously noted. The Saginaw campuses are projected to cost CMU a combined $37 million.

Once four full classes of medical students are admitted in three years, CMED will enroll 400 students, or 2 percent of current on-campus enrollment figures. That means CMU is investing about $92,500 per medical student in the construction of these facilities.

Additionally, CMU will construct a new $8-million lacrosse facility. NCAA Division I lacrosse teams typically hold roster spots for 50 student-athletes, or 0.3 percent of the on-campus population. CMU’s total per-student investment in this facility? $160,000.

In total, CMU will spend $151 million on these major projects — projects that might only directly impact 18 percent of the total on-campus population.

Take away the Grawn renovation, and the investment in such a small fraction of campus becomes even more stark: $140 million for projects that directly impact 6 percent of on-campus students.

It’s often said that a man’s priorities can be found in his budget. Apply that cliche to CMU, and it’s clear that the administration’s priorities lie in business, medicine and surrounding sciences and athletics.


One thought on “ANALYSIS: CMU is spending $151 million on facilities projects that less than one in five students will frequently use

  1. Don’t most students have to take a biology class as a part of general requirements. So that would debunk your student reach “calculation.” Also, many of the bioscience professors are receiving grants that are 100s of thousands of dollars to do their research and part of that money goes to the university, so the building is an investment in that respect. It’s also the most outdated science building when you compare other universities of similar size in the state. Once again it’s an investment to stay competitive.

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