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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Spring 2010

As an MSU Alumni Association member, you’ve already taken action to ensure that your ties to Michigan State University extend beyond your years as a student, something we hope will prove to be a lifelong relationship.

We as an institution value that connection, one we hope becomes even deeper as the years go by and your needs and desires evolve. Certainly, our needs change too.

You probably know by now that MSU, like many universities around the country, faces financial challenges like few times in our 155-year history. You know that changes to this state’s economy that once were considered cyclical today are recognized as long-term. That diminishes our expectations of state support going forward. How well we plan for that—you, me and our fellow stakeholders—will define this university for generations of students and alumni to come.

Statewide, a 22 percent reduction in total employment is anticipated between 2000 and 2012, totaling over a million jobs lost in those dozen years. In just the three years leading to 2011-2012, we expect to see state revenues drop 22 percent as well, all of which likely will force continued cuts to higher education and other state services.

A cruel irony of our own years of lean operating is that our freedom of movement now is modest at best. Michigan State operates with the lowest total tuition/fees and appropriation per student in the Big Ten.

Our current student-to-faculty ratio, however, is 16 to 1, about the conference average. We are typically first or second in the Big Ten for the proportion of expenses related to instruction, research and public service. We rank fifth for total faculty compensation and average fifth for total graduate assistant compensation. Michigan State is second to last in the Big Ten for number of students per employee; we have the lowest total unit cost for energy; and we’re the most efficient for custodial, maintenance and grounds staffing.

We’re consequently forced to consider operations and program changes beyond those we normally would plan, but this isn’t about simply cutting – that won’t ensure our continued excellence in the 21st century. We must think carefully about where we need to be as an institution, and we are calling all hands on deck to engage in charting our course. Our alumni need to lend a hand too.

In these pages you will meet Scott Westerman, the new executive director of the alumni association and associate vice president for alumni relations, and you certainly will be hearing from him in the days and years ahead – especially if you’re an online social media networker! We’re pleased to have someone of Scott’s talents and energy onboard as we enter a challenging and exciting era.

I encourage you to continue to monitor the special Web site we’ve developed to follow our restructuring program, Follow us online by signing up for RSS news feeds and through our Twitter, Facebook and You Tube channels. As you engage with us online and in person, we hope you will contribute your thoughts and ideas to the process of Shaping the Future.




Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

President, Michigan State University