Forum Highlights NMU Financial Status

Now that the elections are over, NMU President Les Wong said he expects to hear more news and gain some clarification out of Lansing as to Michigan’s economic situation and the potential impact on entities funded by the state. But at the Oct. 23 campus forum—in the midst of anxiety fueled by the national fiscal crisis and bailouts—Wong reported that NMU is on solid financial ground as a result of good planning across the entire university. He said the university converted its loan debt to fixed-rate bonds nearly nine months ago and the financial aid loan programs are not the type directly impacted by stock market volatility. 

"There are many universities struggling through loan and debt finance issues connected to failed or bought banks," Wong said. "But the recession Michigan has endured is now hitting many states particularly hard.   This is leading many states to consider significant mid-year cuts."

Despite Northern’s relatively sound financial picture at the moment, Wong said the university will move forward cautiously. Strategic road map initiatives will be scaled down. One goal that remains intact is the Wildcat Innovation Fund, which provides financial incentives for employee ideas related to recruitment, retention, cost savings and fundraising. Details will be announced shortly.

Wong has asked deans, department heads and others to monitor all expenditures carefully. He said the hiring process for vacant positions will proceed slowly unless the state economic situation forces a delay. “Please keep in mind that every opening on campus gives us an opportunity to rethink the work,” he added.

Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration) said state revenues were positive as of Sept. 30. The next revenue estimating conference is set for Jan. 9.

“The governor may call for an earlier conference and we’re monitoring that," Leach said. "There could be an [executive order] in January. We’ve confronted EOs before and though we hope none occur, the current financial picture strongly suggests that we should prepare for one. EOs were taken into account in our planning for this year and next and we’ve decided to remain in cost-containment mode for now. In 2002, our state appropriation was $52 million. Today we’re at $46.6 million, despite the fact we’re serving about 2,000 more students.”

Wong said Northern will continue to take advantage of its connections to large financial institutions by inviting experts to deliver educational seminars to help employees manage their retirement funds and weather the crisis.

“There’s a lot to be learned here,” he said. “This is such an unusual, deep and broad problem affecting everything and rippling through the international markets.”


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Updated: November 6, 2008

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