11/07/2013 05:47 pm ET

Michigan State University Trustees Spend Lavishly As College Tuition Skyrockets


College tuition is skyrocketing across America. But at Michigan State University in East Lansing, some college trustees have come under fire for recklessly spending tens of thousands of the university's dollars on international travel and concert tickets.

Michigan State trustees are unpaid, and they're expected to represent the Spartans at alumni dinners, receptions and events. Their expenses and travel bills are reimbursed to them through a fund the university has set up to do just that.

Detroit television station WXYZ aired an exclusive report after gaining access to many of the bills some Michigan State trustees have been sending to the school to pay. Some trustees were enjoying swanky hotels, limousines, dinners and concerts -- then sending the bill to MSU.

MSU spokesman Kent Cassalla told MLive that the money in the expense fund for trustees doesn't come from tax dollars or student tuition, and he said all the trustees have followed the rules for having their expenses repaid. "As a global research university with an institutional budget of nearly $2 billion, there is an expectation that as part of their duties trustees travel domestically and internationally to check on university operations, meet with alumni and donors and conduct university business," Cassella said.

Michigan State Trustee Mitch Lyons, who was not implicated in the WXYZ story, told MLive that he found some of the charges to be "excessive," and expected the story and the trustees' expense accounts to be discussed at their next meeting.

"I think it's certainly worthy of a review," Lyons said. "It unfortunately paints a poor picture of the university, and I'm sure it'll be up for discussion."

Head over to WXYZ to to find out what one trustee did when she was confronted by television cameras.

Scroll down for a list of the most outrageous expenses they found, compared with some of the financial woes MSU students are facing.

  • 15
    Getty Images
    When the MSU basketball team went to Germany, Trustee Faylene Owen and her husband went along for the ride. Her ticket cost $5,698.
  • 14
    MSU was forced to recently to cut $110 million in spending, including $28 million from employee health care and eliminating $32 million in expected wage increases.
  • 13
    During Owen’s week-long trip to Germany, paid for by MSU, she watched the basketball game, met with students studying abroad and held an alumni dinner. Only 10 people showed up, WXYZ found out.
  • 12
    Today, the average student loan debt is over $27,000.
  • 11
    Photo via Steinburger Frankfurter Hof
    Once they landed in Frankfurt, the Owens stayed at the opulent Steigenburger hotel, in a room that cost as much as $1,275 a night, WXYZ reports.
  • 10
    The Graduate Employees Union, representing 1,400 teaching assistants at Michigan State, protested the Board of Trustees meeting on Oct. 25, saying the student instructors are owed more than $100,000 in unpaid wages.
  • 9
    Shutterstock photo
    When the week in Germany was over, it wasn't time to go home. Owen went on to Paris, spending another three nights in a hotel that costs $980 every night. A spokesman told WXYZ she attended another alumni dinner and visited the U.S. Embassy to talk about MSU's role in Europe.
  • 8
    Despite an increase in state funding, MSU still raised tuition in 2013. Students are now paying more than ever.
  • 7
    Limousines to drive Owen and her husband around Germany and France cost MSU almost $3,000. The couple received more than $3,000 in cash stipends, as well, reports WXYZ.
  • 6
    The estimated cost of tuition for in-state students is $21,764 every year. For out-of-state students, a year at Michigan State costs $42,652.
  • 5
    The total bill to the university for Faylene Owen's 10-day European trip? $26,319.To reiterate, the trustee's vacation was more expensive than a year of in-state tuition at Michigan State.
  • 4
    Former Trustee Melanie Foster traveled to South Africa with her husband in 2012. Over their 10-day trip, they attended an alumni dinner and reception, recruited students and toured universities. The trip cost MSU $20,011. Foster cut a check for $14,000 to the university after WXYZ asked to see a copy of her bills.
  • 3
    (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
    $68,000 in public money was also spent on tickets for trustees to attend Spartan athletic events, WXYZ found. $24,000 was spent on tickets at the Wharton Center for the Arts for trustees to see performers like Jerry Seinfeld and Carrie Underwood.
  • 2
    In 2003, a credit hour at Michigan State cost $197.50. In fall 2013, it costs $428.75.
  • 1
    MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon gave this statement when she announced the 2013 tuition increase. “This year’s appropriations were helpful and our own cost-savings efforts continue, but we still need to confront years of erosion of state support and rising costs beyond our control."