GVSU boosts financial aid by 13%, plans for fall

The June 22 Board of Trustees meeting
The June 22 Board of Trustees meeting
Image Credit: Elizabeth Lienau

Grand Valley State University Board of Trustees approved a 13 percent boost in financial aid at a June 22 meeting where members also heard about plans for the fall in response to the pandemic and a call to action to address racial injustice.

"We can’t guarantee the path of the virus, but we can guarantee that Grand Valley has the ability to mobilize and mount a proper response to returning safely to campus while striving for social justice and economic structures to assure access and continuation of learning," President Philomena V. Mantella said during a meeting held at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus as well as remotely. "We have spent the year promising each other to Reach Higher Together now let’s prove we can do just that."

During the meeting, the board approved delaying the FY 2021 budget until November when there will be more certainty in state appropriations, passing instead a budget continuation with a 10 percent spending decrease from the current budget. Cost containment measures include a pay freeze for all administrators, faculty and staff.

The university will increase institutional financial aid by $5.6 million in 2020-2021, on top of a $2.25 million increase already made available. Trustees also approved a tuition increase of $192 per semester (3 percent), bringing the per-semester tuition to $6,622 for a full-time undergraduate Michigan resident, which places GVSU 11th among Michigan’s 15 universities for tuition rates.

With the boost in financial aid, those with financial need will see on average a reduction of costs by approximately $250 as compared to 2019-2020; about 90 percent of GVSU students received at least one type of financial aid in the previous year.

Grand Valley also worked to help students stabilize their financial situation during the COVID-19 pandemic. GVSU has already distributed to students $9.1 million in federal CARES Act funds, which went to more than 6,000 recipients. In addition, students are receiving help from the Student Support Fund. Mantella pledged 10 percent of her salary and vice presidents and deans pledged 5 percent to go to the fund. 

“Grand Valley State University remains a 'value leader' among the state's public universities,” said outgoing Board Chair Mary Kramer. “Even with the modest tuition increase we approved for the coming year, our tuition rate is nearly the lowest among the 15 state universities. As we increase tuition rates for the long-term health of the university, we also increased the pool for financial aid, on top of the $9 million CARES act dollars given directly to students. We're proud of our record in helping many students graduate in four years, which saves students and their families money in the long run."

The university’s response to the challenges brought on by the pandemic showed the true character of Lakers, Mantella said, and nowhere is that more evident than in the planning for a safe, vibrant Fall semester. For continually updated information, visit gvsu.edu/lakerstogether.

"Even amidst personal and professional pressures Lakers contribute. It is no different on campus," Mantella said. "Everyone is working in new and remarkable ways to deliver on our mission. We are diligently planning to ramp up this university to welcome students back to campus for the Fall semester while following all public health guidance."

Mantella also outlined for trustees a comprehensive action plan to elevate the voices and experiences of Black faculty, staff and students so the university can fulfill its mandate for inclusion and equity. More information is available here.

"We have all witnessed the passion and despair of those who cry out for justice and can no longer tolerate the sting of empty rhetoric," Mantella said. "I have named leaders around the university to hold us accountable for the goals we set and a network of advisors to enrich our work."

The meeting also included the formal introduction of several new university leaders and a farewell to a longtime administrator. Mantella introduced to the board Vice President and Chief Digital Officer Milos Topic and Vice President for Enrollment Development Donta Truss. They each begin their positions later this summer.

Departing is Vice President Lynn (Chick) Blue, who is ending a 52-year career with the university. The board approved an emeritus status for Blue, who will continue consultation work with Mantella for the next year. In addition, Mantella announced that a new app providing information about Grand Valley will be called "Ask My Blue Laker," to honor Blue.

Provost Maria Cimitile, also executive vice president for Academic and Student Affairs, formally introduced Jennifer Drake as the new dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Drake replaces Fred Antczak, the college’s founding dean, who will return to the English faculty.

And in board changes, Megan Sall was elected chair of the board, replacing Kramer. Susan Jandernoa was elected vice chair. The other officers are Vice President for University Relations Matt McLogan, secretary; Vice President for Finance and Administration Greg Sanial, treasurer; and serving as assistant treasurer, Craig Wieschhorster, associate vice president for Business and Finance.

In other board action:

• Trustees approved two new programs: An undergraduate major in respiratory care, which will help meet demand for professionals in a high-growth field. Also, a graduate program in applied statistics, which will train students for immediate employment as applied statisticians in a variety of settings.

• The board approved a resolution for authorization of Michigan Preparatory Virtual School, serving a statewide cyber-student body, for a term of five years. The board also approved a resolution for appointment or reappointment of charter school board members to GVSU-authorized public school academy boards.