MARQUETTE – Despite uncertainty about state funding for higher education, the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees set fall tuition and fees at a special teleconference meeting this morning. Administrators developed a recommendation around "an educated guess" so that students and parents have an opportunity to plan ahead for the fall semester that begins Aug. 29.

           In a 5-3 vote, trustees approved the following annual rates for full-time students: resident undergraduates will pay an additional $524, or $5,858; nonresident undergraduates will pay $860 more, or $9,602; resident graduate students will see a $436 increase, to $4,754; and nonresident graduate students will pay an additional $628, for a rate of $6,994. These figures amount to increases of 9.8 percent for undergraduate students, and about 10 percent for graduate students.

           The one-time student athletic fee for new students, which allows admission to NMU sporting events during their college careers, will increase from $100 to $150.

           "To the best of our knowledge, as of today, Northern will remain the second most affordable institution in Michigan," said NMU President Les Wong. "Our commitment to providing a high-quality, high-touch education on a high-tech campus remains our number one goal.

           "With higher education proposals that would reduce Northern's state funding by anywhere from 2 to 10 percent, it's been extremely difficult to formulate a budget plan when we don't have solid numbers yet. We are taking a multi-pronged approach that considers enrollment growth, budget reductions and reallocations, and new streams of revenue generation. We will continue to monitor the legislative process and continue to discuss options accordingly."

           In developing their recommendation, NMU administrators assumed a 2006 state appropriation reduction of almost $900,000, which is what Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed in her executive budget.            They also anticipated a net increase in general fund expenditures of $3.1 million. This covers rising costs associated with contracted compensation adjustments, mandated support for the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS), utilities and support. It also factors in budget reductions of nearly $1.2 million, which includes the loss of 18 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. Northern previously implemented almost $12 million in cost-savings measures over a three-year period, reducing the campus workforce by 111 FTE positions.

           The university's financial aid would be increased by $625,000 to offset some of the student need related to the tuition increase.

           "I can't emphasize enough the need to preserve the quality of Northern's academic programs," said trustee Jack LaSalle, in voting to approve the recommendation. "NMU undisputedly has placed itself in a comparative advantage in the state in terms of tuition. People look at us with that in mind, but if you listen to students, a driving force in their decision-making process is the value of the education – how much academic quality they're getting for their investment. They get a high return at Northern, and I want to see that continue. It would be hard for the university to cut even more from its budget without adversely impacting the academic experience."

           Board chair Karl Weber was among the three who voted against the recommendation.

           "My one overriding concern is for the students and their families," he said. "I want an NMU education to remain as affordable and accessible as possible. I just think there are ways the university could tighten its belt even further by reducing costs, as painful as that may be."

           The NMU administration will present a detailed FY2006 budget for approval at the board's next regularly scheduled meeting, Aug. 4-5.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director