Letter to the Institute for Policy Studies

The University of Michigan has sent a letter to the Institute for Policy Studies, saying the agency’s report, “The One Percent at State U,” is based on “faulty research and inaccurate data.” The think tank has removed the report from its website, noting problems with some of data that were used in the analysis.

May 21, 2014

To the Institute for Policy Studies,

Your report May 18, “The One Percent at State U” is nearly 100 percent wrong. It is damaging to public higher education across the nation, with its shameful conclusions based on faulty analysis and inaccurate data. Perhaps your decision to remove the report from your website is acknowledgment of these serious flaws.

Differing metrics and varying time periods — not only by institution but by category within a single institution – don’t allow for a broad, accurate analysis. Since you didn’t fact-check with our institution (nor others, given the reaction of our colleagues), we did not have the opportunity to note these errors.

The information included about the University of Michigan is so unclear and error-filled that when we are even able to determine what data is being used, your conclusions are completely the opposite of reality. We could not, quite frankly, replicate your findings.

The report claims that at the University of Michigan, student debt increased at a rate faster than average, that non-academic administrative expenses outpaced scholarships and that part-time faculty increased by more than 1,500.

All wrong.

Student debt stayed nearly constant, and in fact decreased very slightly; spending on scholarships increased at double the rate of spending on non-academic expenditures; and part-time faculty increased – by 80, not 1,500+.

Here’s a more detailed look at the truth behind the data:

The truth about student debt

Student debt at the University of Michigan actually decreased very slightly from FY10 to FY12, the timeframe used by you to track and compare debt levels with changes in executive pay and faculty ranks. During this same period, student debt at all national colleges and universities increased by 28 percent, and increased at national public four-year institutions by 13 percent.

If you look at a longer timeframe, from 2006-12, it is true student debt increased at U-M by 18 percent. But, it increased at a much slower rate at U-M than at all colleges and universities (34 percent increase) and at all public four-year institutions (39 percent increase.)

The truth about non-academic administration costs compared with scholarships

The report says expenditures on non-academic administration outpaced scholarships by almost three to one. It’s unclear exactly what was being measured, but in fact just the opposite is true. Growth in financial aid at U-M outpaced growth in non-academic spending per capita by two to one. Non-academic administration spending increased by 14.6 percent per capita – and spending on financial aid increased by 29 percent.

The truth about part-time faculty

The ranks of part-time faculty did increase from FY10 to FY12, but not by 1,536. They increased by 80 faculty members. At the same time, the fulltime, tenured and tenure-track faculty increased by 104 positions – a figure that also was  wrong in the report.

The truth about executive pay

While the president’s salary did increase from FY10 to FY12, her rank among other public higher education leaders in terms of total compensation actually dropped during this period.

As leader of the University of Michigan, our president is responsible for three campuses, a $2.5 billion Health System and the largest research portfolio among public institutions in the United States. Her compensation is commensurate with her position in a highly complex organization.

We think you owe the public an explanation and we expect you will correct the record and communicate with the media that reported on your faulty conclusions.



Rick Fitzgerald

University Spokesperson and Associate Director of Public Affairs

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