Governor Requests Tuition Freeze

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is asking Michigan universities and community colleges to freeze tuition for the next academic year. It is one of five “urgent measures to protect families during this economic crisis” outlined in her State of the State address Tuesday night.

“We aren’t in a position to respond to her request at this time because we are awaiting details of the governor’s executive budget,” said Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration). “As a university, we rely on two primary sources of revenue: state support and tuition and fees. A decrease in one places significant pressure on other side of the equation. Until we have a better idea of the proposed direction for higher education funding for next year, it would be premature to make any decisions about tuition.”

The executive budget is tentatively scheduled to be presented to the Michigan Legislature on Thursday, Feb. 12. Preliminary indications, such as January’s state revenue forecast, have not been encouraging. It is predicted Michigan will face a combined shortfall this year and next of more than $2 billion. The prospect of resulting cuts in legislative support, combined with a host of unknown variables, has led NMU administrators to adopt a “worst-case scenario” planning strategy. Their goal is to reduce the university’s general fund budget by $10 million.

NMU President Les Wong charged the President's Council to work with all units on campus to develop budgets with reductions at the 6 and 10 percent levels. They have also been asked to identify potential one-time dollars that could be made available quickly in the event of an executive order this fiscal year.

“There are three questions I’d like each of you to consider,” wrote NMU President Les Wong in an e-mail to employees. “Are we willing as a community to protect jobs as one of our top priorities? Are there ideas that address restructuring the university that would lead to better operational efficiencies, cost savings or cost containment? What’s one suggestion you can bring to your department for cost savings or efficiencies in your area that don’t impact full-time or part-time jobs?

“I’ve expressed my concerns to the President’s Council that we should look at every option before we look at cutting positions. That said, I’m not advocating that every position we have today be protected exactly in its present form and function.”

Wong said one option that won’t be considered is covering the target through tuition alone, which would require an increase of more than 25 percent. The preliminary budget proposals are due Feb. 18. A university forum on the reduction plan is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday, March 12, in Reynolds Recital Hall.


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Updated: February 5, 2009

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