Higher Ed Unharmed in Governor’s Budget
The legislative cycle is just beginning, but the first indicator – Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s executive budget presented last week – reinforces education as a top priority and recognizes the key role that Michigan colleges and universities will play in the state’s economic recovery.
Despite projected revenue shortfalls of more than $800 million this year and up to $2 billion next year, Granholm has called for a 2.5 percent across-the-board increase in higher education funding. This would add about $1.2 million to Northern’s appropriation, which is $46.4 million.
Despite the optimistic starting point, NMU President Les Wong said it is important to proceed with caution: “We thank the Governor for her commitment to education and hope the House and Senate will take the same path. But the legislative process is a long one even when economic times are good and the budget situation is a lot less complicated. This is not one of those years. To think that a 2.5 percent funding increase is guaranteed would be foolish planning on our part. It’s also important to remember that with a university’s ever-rising costs, this increase does not put us significantly ahead of where we are now. But the bottom line is that any increase is appreciated and is much more workable than a decrease in funding.”
Wong will give Northern’s annual testimony before the House Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 6, in Lansing. He also anticipates being called to give testimony before the Senate Appropriations Higher Education Subcommittee in late April.
“The budget process will be long and difficult, creating a timing dilemma for our decisions on key issues like tuition,” he added. “We like to set tuition as early as possible to give students and their families time to plan. In fact, the Board of Trustees moved its August meeting to July this year to make that decision in a timely manner. But as in recent years, we may have to announce the rates without knowing our final budget situation and just before bills are sent out.”
NMU employees who were unable to attend one of Wong’s recent forums on the topic can listen at Budget.