UM Endowment Soars, Poor Students Need Not Apply

This morning I was treated to not one but two infuriating articles on education. The first was a report that the Unviversity of Michigan’s endowment is now the seventh highest in the nation, just under elite insitutions like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. U of M’s endowment grows by more than 9% per year, far outpacing most people’s retirement accounts and even outpacing that of the growth of many small developing countries. To put it in perspective, the entire budget of the country of Malawi, where 13 million people live, was approximately 845 million dollars in 2008.

The UM only pockets about half of what it makes from interest revenues and reinvest the remainder, but that still leaves it $266 million to spend at will. To be fair, the UM takes some of that money and invests it in start up companies and research, but, as far as I can tell, a sum total of ZERO goes to investing in keeping tuition fees low and creating scholarship opportunities for bright but financially handicapped students. For that, the UM shifts responsibility on to Federal and State governments to provide financial aid. The UM’s scholarship programs are notoriously pathetic.

Even Harvard does better than this. Kids who come from families who make under $60,000 go for free.

The incoming class at the UM in 2011 was 6,496 students, of which 3,893 were Michigan residents and 2,603 were out of state. Tuition is $7,023 and $20,121 per term for in and out of state respectively. A full term of tuition revenues totals $79.7 million dollars and a full year would be approximately $160 million dollars. This means that the UM could have paid the tuition of every freshman with profits from its endowment alone, and not lost a dime.

Now, this scenario is unrealistic, there are four times as many undergraduates as incoming freshman, but you see the point. The UM does not have to ask the exorbitant prices it does merely in return for joining its exclusive, but quality, club (I love UMich, always have, it’s a great school). They could easily drop in-state tuition to a quarter of what it is and bring it down to the price it was when I went, which any kid could make washing dishes for a summer. Loans would become moot.

This, however, is not on Mary Sue Coleman’s to do list. She’s too busy busting unions and serving a compensated position with Johnson and Johnson to be worried about the exploding costs of tuition.

About Pete Larson

Researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. Lecturer in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I do epidemiology, public health, GIS, health disparities and environmental justice. I also do music and weird stuff.

2 responses to “UM Endowment Soars, Poor Students Need Not Apply”

  1. teacherpatti says :

    I’m going to suggest the unthinkable–that maybe UM stop paying its professors their ginormous salaries (esp. whilst on sabbatical!!) and use some of that money for needy student. Oh I know I know! We need to attract the top talent, don’t we??? And that apparently is only possible by paying huge salaries. Or is it?

    As you know, I’m a K-12 teacher who is paid about 1/3 of what the average UM professor makes and I always find it interesting how people get so upset at my salary while not seeming to care how much those folks make (especially, again, for all of the time not spent teaching!). They should still be paid, but could any of that money be used for the sorts of funding that you are talking about?

  2. Pete Larson says :

    No, I do not agree. University faculty take much more time NOT making money than K-12 teachers do. In the end, it is possible that K-12 teachers, over their lifetime, can make more money than say, a faculty member in the Asian languages department, simply because it takes less time to get to the point of being able to work. PhD’s take lots of time and money, and post docs don’t pay well while you bide your time until you get a faculty position. Even then, your wage may not peak until your well into your 50’s. Granted, in the end, the lifestyle is pretty good,

    Also, the pay for UM faculty ranges from not much more than what you make to the incredible salaries that faculty in the B-school pull. To talk about the “average” UM faculty member is to ignore the incredible range of salaries paid here.

    Faculty at UM are able to more or less pull their own weight with grants, and the money that they pull in for the University more than covers the space and resources they take up. Granted, opportunities for grants vary by department, which is why there is such an incredible range of salary figures here. The situation of payment at Universities is not as simple as it appears.

    In the end, demonizing the faculty is as bad as demonizing K-12 teachers. As I’ve pointed out here, the problem is that the admin isn’t proactive about reducing tuition costs over all. Blaming or asking cuts of faculty, the unions or K-12 teachers isn’t going to make education any cheaper.

    Regardless, K-12 teachers are underpaid. Period.

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