It might look like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow to parents and students weary of years of tuition hikes: $4.1 billion in unrestricted net assets sitting on the books of Michigan's public universities.
But the money isn't available for tuition cuts; it's already committed to building projects.
"It's not simply a pot of money sitting out there," said Ferris State University spokesman Marc Sheehan.
The money -- down from the $4.2 billion listed at the end the 2010-11 school year -- is noted in university financial statements as "unrestricted." That means there are no external conditions, either from donors or grant givers, on how it can be spent; it can be transferred from budget line to budget line by administrators or a board vote.