More litter? That's a good sign, says Wayne State president
While out for a recent Sunday morning walk, Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson noticed something he has rarely seen in the past at the school — litter. Wilson counted that as a positive sign. The trash was a byproduct of the fact that more students are choosing to live on the Midtown Detroit campus and are staying there for the weekends. The university simply needed to shift more staff to the weekend to address what hadn't been an issue in the past. Wilson, in an exclusive Detroit Free Press interview, cited that incident as a sign of growth at the university, where overall enrollment was up this year for the first time in a decade and the university is reaping some of the benefits of Detroit's resurgence. Wilson also saw the need for the university to attract more research dollars. That area has growth, as well, rising $36 million, or 23.7 percent, from the 2014 fiscal year to the 2015 fiscal year. This year, the university got $188 million in externally sponsored research awards. There's more change on the way — a conversation between businessman Chris Ilitch and Wilson led to a $40-million gift that is the major funding source for a new business school next to the new Red Wings arena. Wilson said Wayne State was initially looking to relocate the business school downtown, but moving to the edge of Midtown made more sense once the Ilitch family became involved. Another project, passed by the board recently, will privatize the housing on campus. A private company will renovate and build new dorms and apartments, while Wayne State will still hire the staff and set rates. As part of the deal, the private company is taking $103 million in debt off Wayne State's books. "We are $103 million richer," Wilson said. "That is money we will be able to invest in other areas."