With Americans' student debt approaching $1 trillion, the problem is commanding national attention. "We are putting colleges on notice," President Obama warned during a visit to the U-M in January. "If you can't stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."
Martha Pollack, the U-M's vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs, says no rules have been created yet to put teeth into that warning. In a telephone interview, she points out that the president also said that states need to increase their funding of higher ed, and the feds must continue to invest in financial aid. "We really need all three legs," Pollack says.
As the state's fortunes have declined, however, that leg has been cut short. From 2002 to 2012, the U-M's base state appropriation plunged 26 percent, from $416 million to $308 million--and that's without adjusting for inflation. In the same period, in-state tuition rose 80 percent--this year, LS&A juniors and seniors will pay more than $14,000. Throw in living expenses, and undergrads are looking at about $27,000 a year, making the U-M the most expensive public university in Michigan. Out-of-state students pay almost twice as much, $50,000.