Higher Education Bill Goes to Legislature


A legislative panel approved a deal Wednesday that would restore 1.5 percent of the 5 percent cut from Northern’s state appropriation through an executive order issued in December. It would also allow most of the state’s 15 public universities to increase tuition and fees by 2.8 percent – the rate of inflation – and still avoid a significant cut. The plan awaits final approval from the legislature and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.


The state previously approved a 3 percent restoration of base budget funding for universities that kept their tuition and fee increases at or below the Detroit Consumer Price Index (CPI) and implemented no tuition increase after Dec. 1, 2003. Because NMU and Lake Superior State University implemented mid-year increases before the tuition restraint language was signed into law, they do not qualify for the full 3 percent restoration. Receiving half – 1.5 percent – would have an impact of about $700,000 on NMU.


“Our primary focus is to sustain quality education at NMU, so we will have to discuss the options for revising our budget downward to absorb the $700,000 through such measures as reduced university travel and delays on equipment purchases and other planned spending,” said NMU President Les Wong. “It’s a relief to finally receive some indication of where our funding level will be for the current fiscal year, which started July 1. Having a completed bill will help us move forward with the planning process.”


In addition to NMU and LSSU, Western Michigan University did not qualify for the full restoration because it raised a records fee levied against freshmen and transfer students from $100 to $500. According to the Associated Press, if WMU doesn’t give impacted students a $200 refund, it will not recoup any lost state funding.


Northern’s 2.4 percent tuition increase for fall is below the 2.8 cap approved Wednesday by the House-Senate higher education conference committee. Three universities – Michigan State, Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State – could only limit their increases to 2.4 percent because each had circumstances that prevented them from fully complying with the tuition restraint language.



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Updated: September 9, 2004