Shalala speaks to The Miami Hurricane on economic downturn and its impact on students

Despite the university’s plan to cut costs across the board as a response to the current and expected economic climate, the priority, according to President Donna E. Shalala, is still in attracting and retaining high caliber students for the next academic year.

“Our goal is to protect the core education experience of our students,” Shalala said in a phone interview with The Miami Hurricane.

The university is trying to minimize the impact that the cost containment proposals will have on the student body. However, students will still see an increase in tuition, room and board, and student fees for the 2009-2010 academic year.

According to Provost Thomas LeBlanc, tuition will increase by 3.9 percent, marking “the lowest increase in tuition we’ve had in 15 years.”

Tuition went up to $34,834 for the 2008-2009 academic year; an increase of 5.5 percent over the previous year.

Housing will also go up 4.5 percent for residence halls and the apartment area, and five percent for the University Village. Meal plan costs will increase by six percent primarily because of the cost of food, which according to Shalala, has “skyrocketed” in the past year. Student fees will also go up by three percent.

“We’ve tried to keep everything down” Shalala said.

What they are increasing, however, is the amount of aid available for students who have suffered a “disastrous situation.” The administration is putting more money into scholarships and loans for students whose parents have lost their jobs.

“The focus in this climate is on need-based scholarships” LeBlanc said.

Merit-based scholarships will remain the same for the time being, although the university plans to continue implementing a 10-year strategy which will gradually reduce merit-based aid for students. According to LeBlanc, the university seeks to create “a more compelling educational experience for the students” which will lead them to reduce the top end of merit-based scholarships. According to Shalala, the money for the increase in need-based scholarships will be coming from money they have been trying to raise and savings.

In addition to scholarships, there will also be an expansion in work study opportunities. Because of the newly approved stimulus bill, researchers will also receive money from the National Institutes of Health, which means that students seeking to work on research opportunites will be able to do so.

While the administration is looking to reduce costs in many areas across the school, Shalala stated that she is not willing to reduce the amount of student scholarship money, the number of students, or the improvements needed to enrich the educational experience for the student body.

“All the other cuts that we’re doing are designed not to impact the students,” Shalala said. “We’re not going to start to nickel and dime our students.”

Cuts in class size are up to the deans in the individual schools.

The university’s situation has worsened in the last months due to the severe economic downturn. The school’s endowment has gone down 25 percent since June 1, 2008, the start of the current fiscal year.

The university’s debt also increased in late 2007 with the purchase of the Cedars Medical Center, now University of Miami Hospital, as patient care at the site and other UM medical facilities accounts for 41.4 percent of the university’s $1.8 billion.

While a big expenditure, the hospital is making steady revenue, according to Shalala, and no money from the Miller School of Medicine or from the tuition paid by undergraduate students is geared towards repaying that debt.

“The hospital stands on its own and it’s doing just fine,” Shalala said.

The tuition money paid by the student stays at the Coral Gables campus, according to Shalala, and goes towards paying the faculty members and services meant to enhance the student experience at the university.

“We will do everything we can so that [the students]don’t notice,” Shalala said. “They should feel like the university is continuing to get better and that their experience continues to get better.”

Fee increases across campus for academic year 2009

Tuition – 3.9 percent (lowest increase in 15 years)

Housing – 4.5 percent

Meal Plan – 6 percent (Shalala credits this to the higher cost of food)

Student Fees – 3 percent

February 19, 2009


Lila Albizu

Assistant News Editor

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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.