NMU Spared Major Cuts

Northern will receive $80,000 in restored funding under a tentative state spending agreement reached Friday by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and legislative leaders. But factoring in the base-budget implications of an executive order enacted last December, the university remains $724,000 below the state funding level of one year ago.


Northern’s FY2006 budget, as approved by the Board of Trustees last month, was developed around the governor's budget recommendation, which called for NMU to receive $804,000 less than its FY2005 state funding level.


“It’s good that our planning was on the right track,” said Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration). “The restored funding means we won’t be faced with having to make additional major reductions on campus this fall beyond the reducations and cost-saving measures already identified in the general fund budget approved by the board.”


Northern will receive slightly more than $45 million in state funding for FY2006. President Les Wong said the outcome is much better than the 5 to 10 percent cuts for Northern originally proposed by the House and Senate.


“This keeps our budget basically intact, but we still have huge challenges ahead of us as we move into the next legislative process,” Wong said. “A per-student funding gap remains, and discussions about formula funding will continue. It’s very clear some legislators are still very interested in a formula approach to funding higher education, but we’re relieved the House proposal for this year wasn’t adopted. As much as the cuts would have hurt us, the proposed formula would have hurt us even more in the long term.”


According to Gongwer News Service, House Speaker Craig DeRoche was pleased that, beginning in July 2006, funding for universities will be allocated in a method similar to what the House GOP had proposed. Universities that offer certain types of degrees would get more money.


When asked if he was disappointed that NMU and WSU are escaping cuts, DeRoche was quoted in Gongwer as saying, “From our perspective, it isn’t the dollar amount; it’s the formula. The transition (to a formula) is being made, and eventually those that would have otherwise received cuts hopefully by their own initiative in directing programs toward their outcomes will end up with more money.”


The agreement reached Friday does not include the governor’s proposed changes to the Merit Award program. She wanted to boost the award from $2,500 to $4,000 and make it payable upon completion of two years of college. While details of the spending plan remain to be worked out, it appears higher education and K-12 fared better than other state departments.


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Updated: October 26, 2005

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