On April 1, 2014, the University of Michigan announced on The University Record that its Chief Financial Officer Tim Slottow would become the new president of the for-profit University of Phoenix. It sounded so ridiculous that even Michael Proppe, the president of the Central Student Government (CSG) and someone who we don’t usually see eye to eye with, was convinced it was an April fools joke. What could the CFO of a public university like the University of Michigan possibly know about running a for-profit private university like the University of Phoenix? Wouldn’t it be hard for him to adjust to the logic of a for-profit (recently probed by the Senate) after spending 12 years working at an ostensibly public institution? If Slottow’s tenure at the University of Michigan is any indication, the answer is a resounding “No.”
The institution whose finances Tim Slottow was charged with managing is no longer public in any meaningful sense of the word. During Slottow’s tenure as CFO at the University of Michigan from 2002 to 2014, one year of lower division undergraduate in-state tuition more than doubled, increasing from $6,395 to $12,948. If tuition had kept pace with inflation it would be about $8,346. Furthermore, the University has radically reshaped the student body, privileging wealthier students whose families can afford exorbitant out-of-state tuition while pricing out students from lower class backgrounds and Black, Latin@, and Native American students. There’s now more students at U-M whose parents make over $200,000 that there are students whose parents make less than $75,000.* Rich students want fancy facilities, so the university has dedicated hundreds of millions of dollars to expensive, unnecessary construction projects. The University now brings in over $1 billion in revenue each year from students’ tuition (just under half of which are paid for with loans).
Slottow’s management of the University’s finances, however, must have been even more attractive to the University of Phoenix’s board of trustees. His accomplishments are duly noted in the University’s press release: