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Eastern Michigan U Taps Utilities Partnership to Help Fund Infrastructure Improvements, Academic Programs, Student Retention

Eastern Michigan University (EMU) has announced a 50-year partnership with Eagle Energy Partners (EEP) that will enable the institution to invest $115 million in infrastructure, academic, and student enrollment and retention needs.

According to a university news release, EEP will provide $20-25 million of its own funds in immediate infrastructure improvements for the campus. EMU hopes to see a "35% reduction in natural gas and electrical consumption" after improvements are made, and expects to save around $900,000 per year in utility and operations costs. EEP will also invest $26 million of its own funds, per the final agreement, in energy conservation projects, which should also save the university $1 million to $1.5 million per year in utility and operations costs.

As part of the agreement EMU will receive $25 million to reduce existing debts and $90 million to launch a Strategic Initiatives Fund. This fund is expected to generate $5 million annually in investment returns.

In turn, EMU will pay $5.3 million a year to EEG to "manage, operate, maintain, and improve the university's infrastructure," according to the release.

After taking into account investments, utility cost savings, and payments to EEP, EMU expects to have $2.7 million to $3.2 million annually to spend on programs to benefit students based on the university's strategic goals. They include efforts to:

  • Increase the student retention rate with programs like Brotherhood and Sisterhood that support students of color;
  • Reduce the undergraduate credit hour graduation requirement;
  • Increase the six-year graduation rate by supporting student persistence;
  • Provide peer support with programs like the Mentor Collective;
  • Make infrastructure and operations into a "living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability";
  • Award part-time internship positions for energy, sustainability, and project management students and help them connect with career pathways in these fields; and
  • Invite faculty, departments, and employees to submit proposals to fund goals outlined in the strategic plan.

To read more about how the energy partnership can help facilitate these and other goals, visit the "Benefits for Students" page. Go to the university's Strategic Plan page to learn more and download the full plan.

The university hopes to finalize the partnership deal by June. Some of the infrastructure projects will begin immediately. Demolition of two residence halls that haven't housed students since 2005 will begin this summer.

"The higher education environment is as challenged as it has ever been in my 14 years as a university president," said James Smith, EMU president. "Institutions must become nimbler and more creative than ever to identify new sources of revenue to invest in student and employee success."

Eastern Michigan University was founded in 1849 and is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves over 15,000 students and offers over 300 majors, minors, and concentrations. Go to the university's About page to learn more.

Eagle Energy Partners is a consortium consisting of CenTrio Energy, Noresco, and Burns & McDonnell.

About the Author

Kate Lucariello is a former newspaper editor, EAST Lab high school teacher and college English teacher.

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