ANALYSIS: CMU’s academic priorities have dramatically shifted over the last five years

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Note: Figures are adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator. Source: CMU operating budgets.

 

By John Irwin

A lot has changed in 15 years at Central Michigan University.

From a new medical school to a handful of new buildings on campus, from record enrollment highs to a quick enrollment decline, CMU has undergone a transformation of sorts since 2000.

That’s reflected in how much CMU has spent per year since then, as the chart above shows. According to CMU budget documents, the university has ramped up spending by about 45 percent since 1999-2000 after adjusting for inflation. Fifteen years ago, the university spent about $318 million in 2014 dollars on general operations, compared to $462 million this year. (Note: these figures do not include any university funds spent on capital projects such as new buildings.)

So, what has all that extra money meant for the university’s colleges and various departments? Take a look below.

Figures are adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars. Percentages reflect a given college or department's share of the overall budget. Sources: CMU operating budgets, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' inflation calculator.
Figures are adjusted for inflation to 2014 dollars. Percentages reflect a given college or department’s share of the overall budget. Sources: CMU operating budgets, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator.

It’s interesting to note where the university has decided to invest its money over time.

Certainly, the College of Business Administration, the College of Health Professions and the College of Science and Technology have benefited greatly over the last 15 years, with 60-percent, 106-percent and 63-percent increases spending over that time period. CMU has invested heavily and consistently into these colleges, and it appears unlikely that will change any time soon. (Note: The figures account for inflation.)

The university’s other colleges have had a rougher go of it over the last five years as declining enrollment and state appropriations have led to cutbacks or smaller increases in funding.

Take, for example, the College of Communications and Fine Arts. Spending on the college increased at a rate similar to the university’s other colleges between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010. However, after adjusting for inflation, spending has dropped slightly since then, to the tune of about $300,000.

Likewise, the College of Education and Human Services saw its spending levels rise by about 59 percent between 1999-2000 and 2009-2010. It has since stalled. And spending on the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences has seen its spending levels rise just 5 percent over the last five years, compared to about 61 percent over the previous 10 years.

Simply put, the university has decided to invest heavily in the sciences, medical fields and business over the last five years under President George Ross in the wake of declining enrollment. The arts, educational training, social sciences and communications have taken a back seat.

This is reflected in the university’s recent capital projects. CMU has spent more than $50 million building new medical school facilities both in Mount Pleasant and in Saginaw, in addition to spending nearly $100 million on a new biosciences building currently under construction and a planned $11 million overhaul of the business school’s Grawn Hall.

That’s more than $160 million on major projects for the university’s science, medical and business schools. The only major capital investment on the other colleges over the last few years was a $14 million of Anspach Hall, which houses many of the CHSBS departments.

Other notes

  • In response to rising college costs, CMU has more than tripled the amount of inflation-adjusted money it spends on scholarships and financial aid since 1999-2000. That includes a 37 percent increase in spending over the last five years in response to enrollment declines.
  • Library spending has fallen by about 3 percent over the last five years, as has spending on residences and auxiliary services.
  • Athletics spending has jumped by about 50 percent over the last 15 years. For more on athletics spending, click here.

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