Wong Outlines Two-Step Plan

Stating that “the change we’ve been discussing for two years is now here,” President Les Wong outlined a two-step plan at last week’s university forum that features budget-reduction and positioning strategies through Jan. 1, 2011. The plan calls for restructuring some units to increase efficiency or revenues and analyzing academic programs that might be enhanced, created or eliminated.

The first step is designed to achieve the short-term goal of covering the expected 3.1 percent state appropriation cut and the projected 2.5 percent increase in operational expenses. Tuition increases will be part of the model, but various scenarios are being analyzed before the NMU Board of Trustees sets rates at its July meeting.

Wong said the following actions will be implemented by June 30 (the anticipated savings is indicated): implement remaining academic budget balancing strategies already proposed and updated this past year, $400,000; restructure and merge Academic Information Services (AIS) and Administrative Information Technologies (AdIT) with respect to technical support for campus-wide computing services, $375,000; reorganize Human Resources to gain efficiencies in services to departments and units, $50,000; achieve 12 early retirements from among the 112 employees who would qualify under the governor’s/legislature’s proposed reform of the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS), $1 million; increase energy conservation efforts, $200,000 minimum.

The second step of the plan would be implemented between July 1 and Jan. 1. Wong said there is much uncertainty surrounding the coming election year, when Michigan will have a new governor and, due to term limits, an overhauled legislature. He said the provost, deans and educational policy committee will identify a minimum of six enhanced or new academic program initiatives that will best serve the economy and attract students. They will also identify a minimum of six programs for termination. Both proposals will be brought to faculty governing bodies during the fall 2010 semester.

Wong has asked the directors of athletics and the U.S. Olympic Education Center to propose reconfiguration models. In athletics, it would apply to all levels, including club, intramural and varsity sports and might include termination of low-participation programs and the initiation of new programs that offer more student recruitment potential. For the USOEC, the goal is to achieve 100 percent self-sufficiency “as soon as possible” and seek a long-term commitment of support from the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Step two of the plan also includes the following: propose a new delivery model for counseling and health promotion services to better meet student needs and interests; propose a new delivery system for continuing education to enhance revenues; improve the linkage between admissions processes and NMU international programs to improve recruitment and retention of international students; and continue to review employee benefits and health plans based on emerging changes and proposals at the federal and state levels.

Facilities will be impacted by the plan. Wong said the university will complete a timeline to demolish Carey Hall and close West Hall. NMU will also continue to seek funding for the combined heat and power plant and work to secure state funding to retrofit Jamrich Hall, which would require classes to be relocated for up to two years.

Wong added that the most difficult challenge might be examining and developing a contingency plan of significant scope, should mid-year executive orders occur in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

“Please don’t forget that we’re stable and well-positioned to do this. We have been directing and will direct our own change through the Road Map to 2015, through our master plan and through a tradition of very successful strategies. I want us to make the decisions that deal with our future."


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Updated: April 16, 2010

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