President Mroz Testifies Before Michigan Senate

By Jennifer Donovan | Published

Michigan Technological University President Glenn Mroz testified in Lansing on Wednesday, Feb. 15, before the Higher Education Subcommittee of the Michigan Senate Appropriations Committee.  His testimony was part of a presentation by the Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), an organization of CEOs from the state’s largest employers, representing among them one-quarter of Michigan’s gross domestic product.

Mroz urged the Senators to support performance-based funding of state universities. Praising Gov. Rick Snyder for proposing a budget that includes incentive funding based on performance, Mroz said that the metrics used to evaluate performance need to follow the recommendations that the BLM has recommended.

These include:

  • Benchmark Michigan universities against their national peers, not against each other.
  • Measure and reward a university’s absolute achievement, as well as progress.
  • Add metrics that further encourage quality outcomes, such as graduation and retention rates.
  • Include a completions metric for advanced degrees, not just undergraduate.
  • Address affordability and tuition in ways that doesn’t drive down quality, such as providing incentives for universities to control administrative overhead and comparing universities to their most affordable peer institutions rather than to an absolute tuition rate increase.

BLM speakers pointed out that Michigan will need more than 1 million more college-educated workers over the next 10 years.  They urged the Senate to encourage state universities to work to attract more out-of-state students whose higher tuition can help support higher education for Michigan students as well.

“We’re glad that the Governor has started the conversation on formula funding,” said Mroz, “but we feel that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields are being defined too broadly, and we support the Business Leaders for Michigan’s performance-based metrics proposal.”

Mroz called Michigan’s universities “a driver of the state’s economy.”  He said a shared commitment by the universities, the state and the business community is needed if Michigan’s universities are going to realize the full potential of their impact on the state’ economy.

The universities have been doing their part, he told the Senators.  “We have raised tuition to partly address reductions in state support, but to maintain accessibility for low and middle-income students, the universities have earmarked part of every tuition increase to augment financial aid for those students.”

State universities have also cut costs, he pointed out.  “All of our universities today operate on defined contribution retirement plans. No universities offer guaranteed pensions.”  The universities have also increased employees’ contributions to health care costs. Employees pay on average about 20 percent of their health care costs, in line with the amount paid by employees in the private sector. The universities have also pooled health care insurance, IT hardware and software purchases, and property and casualty insurance, Mroz said.

Employers are hiring well-educated graduates,  he added, and they’re willing to pay well for them. “I’m proud to say that at Michigan Tech, our job placement rate is 94.6 percent. And the average salary for a 2011 Michigan Tech graduate in software engineering was $67,000.”

Others who testified were Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of BLM, Patrick Doyle,  president and CEO of Michigan-based Domino’s Pizza, and Philip H. Power, founder of The Center for Michigan.

“Our universities are a primary source for finding the talent we need to compete,” said Doyle. “Our universities drive innovation. Our universities drive economic growth. From the state, we need a commitment to put a higher priority on higher education in the budget.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 60 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.