I’ve just come from a chat with the University of Michigan’s president, Mary Sue Coleman, and was tempted to headline this blog “Michigan’s Only Bright Light.” But I decided that would be unfair and inaccurate – in addition to U Mich, there are certainly other things going well there, just not all that many due to the Detroit auto industry’s collapse and wretched unemployment.
As Coleman puts it, the University of Michigan has been in austerity-budget mode for several years; it was fairly obvious shortly after she arrived on the scene, in 2002, that the U.S. auto industry was in decline and public funding for the university was heading downhill. The economic crisis sealed the deal, and along with state money, alumni giving dropped. So did the university’s endowment, which took a 21% hit.
Coleman is dynamism personified, despite a broken hand wrapped in a cast: when she says she actually likes the fund-raising chores that plague college presidents, one believes it. Of course, extracting money from alums’ wallets has been rather difficult since the economy tanked, but Coleman sees signs alumni interest may be picking up.