Senate Subcommittee Proposes 3 Percent increase

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee last week recommended a 3 percent across-the-board increase for Michigan universities for 2008-09. This compares with the governor’s formula-based plan, which includes funding increases ranging from 2.3 percent – where NMU falls – to 6.2 percent. Her proposal factors in undergraduate Pell Grant awards, the amount of research and commercial licensing activity and the number of degrees conferred. More weight is given to degrees from the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

NMU President Les Wong gave his Senate testimony Feb. 25 in Grand Rapids. The subcommittee also had asked university presidents to submit written responses to five standard questions addressing tuition, research, endowments, commercialization of research and technology, and formula funding.

Wong pointed out three ideas for the senators to study:

Areas of Study: In an effort to diversify to a knowledge-based economy robust throughout all sectors of Michigan, focusing too much on certain degrees (i.e. STEM), commercialization and research may have a damaging effect on the future economy. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth Report projected areas of job growth through 2014 will be in education and health services, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality and retail trade. The report points to the fact that the economy needs a diversified educational base of students and more of them, rather than focusing on specific areas (i.e. ‘industrial planning by the State’). This was the point of the Cherry Report.”

Degree Completion: “If a university provides students greater access to higher education by allowing students with lower ACT scores and high school grade point averages admission, then that institution will likely have a lower degree completion rate. Should those institutions receive a lower appropriation because they are providing greater access to students? In addition, there are other mission-related factors that should also be taken into consideration in developing a fair measurement of degree completion success.”

Operating Costs: “Other factors that should be considered in any formula include economies of scale, climate, state mandates that differ from institution to institution and rural versus urban factors. Northern continues to recommend a system of 15 formulae, one for each institution, acknowledging rural-based, urban-based and mission-based differences. A formulaic approach that focuses on increasing the number of students attending and graduating, one that encourages a diverse range of graduates for a diverse economy, would be more beneficial to the long-term interests of Michigan. The goal should be to provide funding that will create and sustain a diversified economy and meet the needs of the different regions of the state. Northern would like to participate in any discussions to develop a funding mechanism.”

For a full review of President Wong's testimony and written responses to the Senate subcommittee, visit Support NMU. Wong will give his House testimony on Monday, April 28, in Big Rapids.


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Updated: March 19, 2008

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