March 4, 2019

President Wilson testifies before House higher education appropriations subcommittee

Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson made a compelling case for increased higher education funding in general, and for Wayne State in particular, on Feb. 28, when he testified before the Michigan House of Representatives higher education appropriations subcommittee in Lansing.

“Last year, we celebrated our 150th year in the heart of Detroit,” Wilson told the subcommittee. “What began as a small medical college founded by five Civil War doctors is now a thriving institution with 13 schools and colleges, students from down the street and all corners of the world, and renowned academic programs, from medicine and science to law and the arts.”

Wilson was one of five Michigan public university presidents testifying. His 25-minute testimony stressed research and community outreach, a commitment to student services and the university’s remarkable improvement in graduation rates.

“We are ‘research intensive,’ among an elite set of universities in the Carnegie Foundation’s highest classification for research — in the top three to four percent,” Wilson said. “Wayne State also ranks in the top Carnegie classification for community engagement. We are proud to be one of only a few institutions in the country to hold the top Carnegie classifications for both research and community engagement.”

He also discussed the university’s emphasis on student success. “We are in the third year of a five-year strategic plan, and we have been making great strides in our areas of strategic focus, the most important of which is student success,” Wilson told the subcommittee. “I am happy to announce that our phenomenal improvement in our six-year graduation rate earned Wayne State the Association of Public and Land-grant University’s 2018 Degree Completion Award, which recognizes innovative and successful approaches to improve degree completion and ensure educational quality.”

As an example of programmatic support for students, Wilson cited the university’s new Warrior Way Back initiative. “Warrior Way Back is a first-of-its-kind program in the nation — a debt-forgiveness program that allows stopped-out Wayne State students to earn their way to good financial standing by resuming their education. Qualified students can ‘learn’ away their debt while working toward their bachelor’s degree. Since the program began in 2018, 76 students have signed on, and nine students have already graduated. Eleven more will graduate by August 2019.”

Wilson then turned to two Wayne State graduates, Shawnte’ Cain and Jonathan Williams, whom he invited to accompany him to Lansing. Cain and Williams spoke of their positive experience with Warrior Way Back and how the program allowed them to complete their degrees. Cain is back at Wayne State taking a class.

Wilson concluded his remarks by emphasizing the role higher education plays in moving Michigan forward. “I realize that there are a lot of competing needs in the state and that resources are limited. I do believe, though, that an investment in higher education is in the best interests of the future of this state,” he said.

Click here to read the full text of President Wilson’s testimony.