MARQUETTE - Michigan's 15 public universities, including Northern Michigan University, were told by Governor John Engler Friday that he has proposed a continuation budget for higher education in his Fiscal Year 2003 state budget, which is slated to be released to the public on Thursday.

The proposal, however, is based on the universities voluntarily holding tuition and fee increases for next year at or below 8.5% or $425 - whichever is greater - and does include funding penalties for schools that do not adhere to the agreement. (NOTE: At N MU, I% increase in tuition and fees is $44.)

Northern's state appropriation funding for Fiscal Year 2002 is $52 million, which makes up about two-thirds of NMU's operating budget.

"Northern Michigan University thanks Governor Engler; Senator Joe Schwarz and Representative Sandy Caul, who chair their respective higher education appropriation subcommittees, as well as the other Michigan legislators for their continued support of higher education, especially during these economically trying times," said NMU President Judi Bailey.  "This agreement is significant in that representatives from all branches of the state govemment the Department of Treasury, and the state university presidents came together to create a plan that ensures access, affordability and quality for Michigan's college students at the same time preserving the universities' governing board's right to establish tuition rates."

"The announcement by the Governor this early in the university's budget planning process helps Northern focus on making decisions with better knowledge of anticipated resources," Bailey said.

Bailey said "that even with a continuation budget Northern will be facing a shortfall in 2002-03 of about $2.3 million, but that NMU has approached its budget work "from a position of strength."

"Northern started its budget development from an advantageous point - we currently have a balanced budget," said Bailey.  "The anticipated deficit is due to rising operating costs.

Northern began its budget development process in October and will continue to review reallocation recommendations and create a priority list for critical needs throughout the Winter 2002 semester.  Northern has slated forums for NMU faculty and staff on February 13-14.  Final tuition and fee recommendations are expected to be brought before the NMU Board of Trustees at its May 3 meeting.

"We are very aware that many of the families of our students, especially those in the central U.P., have been impacted by the economy's downturn, thus we said from the start that we needed to focus on internal budget reallocations and enrollment growth before we make decisions on tuition increases," said Bailey.  "Enrollment growth is the key.  The more students we retain and new students we enroll at NMU, the better our budget situation will be."

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