Wong Stresses Proactive Strategy
With the state facing a projected revenue shortfall of more than $800 million this year and up to $2 billion next year, President Les Wong told attendees at three university forums this week that it’s important for NMU to adopt an offensive strategy.
He said NMU should focus on maintaining the high-quality, high-touch programs that appeal to students and parents; sustaining enrollment growth and retention to compensate for reductions in the percentage of state support; addressing appropriate opportunities in a timely manner; reviewing internal processes that slow down the university and frustrate initiatives; and increasing the “error tolerance” by implementing good ideas but having an exit plan if their feasibility doesn’t extend beyond the short term.
“I don’t want to wait until the numbers are out and someone is telling us what to do and when,” he said. “I would rather we control our own destiny. My plea is that we get ready without panicking and that we don’t worry about cuts because there are no numbers out yet. Let’s focus on what we can aggressively do to deliver our services when opportunities arise. Perhaps we can generate more revenue by our creativity to more than offset any cut."
Wong said his first goal is to begin a discussion with the campus community about the size and scope of the Michigan problem. He attributes the economic woes to a combination of sliding revenues, a declining tax base, and structural problems—namely, a decision to repeal the single business tax with no strategy to replace the $1.9 billion in revenue it generated. He also cited rising health-care, pension and corrections costs.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm is scheduled to unveil her executive budget for FY2008 on Feb. 8 – two days after her State of the State address.
“There’s a lot of talk about executive orders,” Wong said. “But I’ve also heard rumors that there’s a growing consensus in Lansing that higher education is number one in terms of helping the state dig itself out and diversify its economy. Of all the major state agencies, higher education is the only one not only operating in the black, but generating revenue and services that lead to jobs.
“Northern’s talent lies in our commitment to students by providing high quality programs. We need to be more entrepreneurial, and responsive to rapidly arising opportunities that will contribute to the health of the U.P., Marquette and the university. I’m very, very optimistic about our chances. We are a talented and committed campus offering a first-rate experience.”
Also at the forum, Wong said there will be an upcoming administrative change, as Cameron Howes (Professional Studies) has announced that he will retire from his dean position at the end of June.