News Story

U-M President Pushes Conservation While Taxpayers Pay Up To $30K A Year In Energy Costs For Her Residence

An analysis of the size and costs of presidential houses for Michigan universities

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman has said her college needs to be a global leader when dealing with energy sustainability.

Yet, Coleman's own university provided residence has the most expensive energy costs among state universities, both in total costs and cost per square feet, with a gas-electric-steam bill reaching nearly $30,000 in one year.

When receiving a grant for "sustainablity fellows" from Dow Chemical last year to help people "live cleaner, greener and sustainably," Coleman said: "[This partnership] is broad and comprehensive as sustainablity itself, and frankly, I believe it is the only way to solve problems as pervasive as the ones that we are facing in protecting our natural world."

But Coleman’s own electricity, gas and steam bill has varied from $19,448 to $29,807 between 2010-12. That bill was $22,591 in 2012, or $1.61 per square foot. DTE estimates its average residential electrical and gas rates are $2,160 a year.

University of Michigan Spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said Coleman's house is far from average. It is 14,000 square feet and is the oldest building on campus. It was built in 1837. Fitzgerald said the president's house is registered as a historic house, which complicates any improvements that could be made to it. U-M is saving $5 million a year throughout campus on energy conservation, Fitzgerald said.

"Those savings really add up as opposed to focus on the president's home," Fitzgerald said. "There is only so much you can do on a house that is that old."

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy put in a Freedom of Information Act request for the utility expenditures for the president's houses for each of the state universities. Northern Michigan University's president's house is 8,173 square feet. Its gas and electrical bill was $3,502 in 2011, or 43 cents per square foot. Oakland University had the second-most expensive energy bill, with a $14,242 annual gas and electric bill in 2011, or $1.13 per square foot.

Making direct comparisons of state university presidential residences is not simple. Some state college president houses share their energy with other buildings, making it difficult to estimate the costs for one building. In other instances, the president's house isn't even used by the president as a residence.

For example, Michigan State University's annual electric and gas bill for what used to be the president's house is $12,340 for a 16,876 square foot home. However, MSU President Lou Anna Simon lives in her own house and no housing allowance is provided by the university, said Ellen Armentrout, the school's FOIA officer.

Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said he prefers a setup like MSU's.

"The bigger question is, 'Why should the students and the taxpayers have to provide these university presidents with lavish mansions?' " Drolet said. "The folks are paid very large salaries and should be able to provide pretty nice homes."

Besides the $585,872 annual salary Coleman earns from the University of Michigan, Forbes reported that in 2011 Coleman got an additional $195,000 in total compensation from Meredith Corp., and $239,972 in total compensation from Johnson & Johnson for serving on those boards.

"They could sell it and not use that as a living/working mansion and reduce costs," Drolet said. "She moves out of the house and buys a house like everyone else."


College Square
Energy Costs
(average last
three years)
University of Michigan 14,000 $23,949
Oakland University 12,587 $14,508
Western Michigan University 6,316 $9,177
Eastern Michigan University 10,000 $8,911
Lake Superior State University 7,027 $4,814
Northern Michigan University 8,173 $4,742
Central Michigan University 6,440 $4,621
Michigan State University Do not pay for president’s house
Wayne State University Do not pay for president’s house
Michigan Technological University Do not pay for president’s house
Ferris State University Did not respond to FOIA request
Grand Valley State University Did not respond to FOIA request
Saginaw Valley State University Did not respond to FOIA request


See also:

U-M President Praised as 'Rock Star' for Cutting Costs, Real Numbers Tell a Different Story

University of Michigan: More Staff, Higher Revenue, Higher Pay ... Wants More Money From Taxpayers

University of Michigan Spends $129K To Produce a Degree

Other Big State Universities Tighten Their Belts — U-M Has Much To Learn