Board to Set Tuition Next Month
The NMU Board of Trustees is expected to set tuition at its next meeting July 19-20. Recent legislative action has put increasing pressure on Michigan universities to focus on tuition and cost-saving measures to compensate for state cuts, delayed payments, unfunded mandates and rising operational expenses.
Under an agreement reached by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers to address this year’s budget deficit, Northern will have to give back $806,000 of its previously allotted $1.3 million state funding increase for FY2007. Because the university’s budget cycle ends June 30, most of the money has already been spent. The state will also delay Northern’s August payment of $4.2 million until after the government’s new fiscal year begins in October.
“We anticipated a tough situation as we were planning our budget for the current year, so we deferred some maintenance projects and equipment purchases,” said Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration). “The funding was set aside, but we didn’t spend it. We will use those reserves to cover the bulk of the $800,000 and to fill the void between August and October. If it turns out that the state cannot make the October payment as intended, that $4.2 million is a significant cut to our budget and we will have to formulate a plan to address that situation if it surfaces.”
President Les Wong calls such disinvestment strategies a blow to the role higher education has in reinvigorating and diversifying the Michigan economy.
“Universities are key economic engines in their communities and our graduates represent the new workforce where intellectual capital will spur new businesses and new enterprises,” he said. “These steps will slow down our current efforts. Continuous cuts year after year threaten the ability to be able to offer programs at the highest level of quality."
Wong said he has been told its is likely that the state legislative leadership will present a proposal for FY2008 higher education funding before the end of the month.
“So many legislators have told me that they know investing in higher education is crucial to the state. Our hope is that the funding bill for 2007-08 clearly reflects that.”