NMU Board Sets Tuition
The NMU Board of Trustees today approved a 2011-12 tuition and fees schedule. The annual cost for full-time resident undergraduates will be $8,414, a 6.99 percent increase from last year's board-approved rate of $7,864. The tuition recommendation was based on three factors: a 15 percent cut in state funding for higher education, which is a $6.8 million loss for NMU; additional estimated state-mandated pension costs of up to $500,000 for participants in the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS); and a potential enrollment decline of 1 percent.
While the dollar increase over last year is third-lowest among the Michigan public universities that have announced rates and NMU will continue its longtime rank as having the second-lowest tuition and fees, trustees expressed concern that dwindling state support has forced schools to rely more heavily on tuition revenue. Some praised the university’s continuing emphasis on the quality of the academic experience, saying they recognize it is increasingly difficult to preserve that while also maintaining affordability.
"After five years on this board, I’m absolutely convinced that I’m participating reluctantly in the abandonment of public education at the university level," said Trustee Stephen Adamini. "I know what I have to do, but I don't like the trend that's forcing me to do it. The state cuts university funding by 15 percent and then admonishes us not to raise tuition above 7.1 percent or face a $2.1 million penalty. Society is abandoning its pledge to provide free or inexpensive education to everyone."
Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration) reported that the $38.4 million in fiscal year 2012 funding is less than the 1992 level of $41.2 million, without accounting for inflation. The university is also serving nearly 1,600 more students now than it did two decades ago. He said NMU has implemented budget reductions over the past several years to ease the financial impact on students, including $4.9 million for FY2012. Most of this year’s savings will come through the loss of 20 faculty and 16 staff positions that were either vacant or whose term contracts were not renewed. NMU also restructured its laptop program so computers will be replaced on a three-year cycle instead of two, saving $500,000. Department support budgets for travel, printing, supplies, cell phone stipends and administrative support are reduced by $436,000.
“We’ve funded more than half of the $6.8 million loss in state support through cost-cutting and improved efficiency; the balance will come from tuition adjustments,” said Leach. “The budget reductions we’ve identified will offset an estimated $1.4 million in operational cost increases and the $750,000 in tuition revenue we would lose from the potential 1 percent enrollment decline attributed to demographic changes and last spring's large graduating class. If we do end up with more tuition revenue than anticipated, we would apply that toward filling faculty positions.
“Most NMU employees have had no base salary increases—some for two consecutive years—and the university ranks highest in the state in terms of overall staff efficiency. Our total general fund expenditure budget will decrease this year. We will remain focused on controlling costs and aggressively managing tuition and fees in this challenging economic climate.”
Board Chair Brian Cloyd said, "The administration and employees have done a tremendous job reducing costs and should be applauded for that. Our problem is not caused by the university. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s an awful dilemma. The long-term challenge is to increase revenue from other sources because state revenue is going down."
Trustee Gil Ziegler cast the lone vote against the tuition proposal. The board also agreed to increase two academic fees: clinical laboratory sciences by $25 more per semester and art and design by $50. The bowling course fee will be adjusted, as necessary, to reflect actual costs for lane usage. There is no increase in the student one-time athletic fee or the annual student activity fee. The full tuition and fees schedule is available at www.nmu.edu/tuition.
In other action at today’s meeting, the board:
▪Approved an executive committee recommendation to create a 403(c) annuity for President Les Wong to address necessary contract changes related to federal tax regulations. Contributions to his deferred compensation remain the same.
▪Accepted the following appointments or reappointments to charter school boards: Jacqueling Kang and Marilyn Shawano, Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy; and Roger Zappa and Christopher Kibit, North Star Academy.
▪Accepted $8,300 in gifts and $196,000 in external grants.
▪Received an informational update on the university’s athletics and recreational sports programs.
▪Heard reports from the first meetings of two new subcommittees: alternative funding and faculty work, which will review the existing structure and look for opportunities to improve the evaluation process.