The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees today approved a 2016-17 tuition and fees schedule and agreed to restructure the university’s flat-rate tuition program. The combined average annual cost for full-time resident undergraduates will be $10,086, an increase of $406—or 4.2 percent—from last year’s rate of $9,680. NMU will maintain its longtime rank as having the second-lowest tuition and fees among Michigan’s public universities and the lowest in the Upper Peninsula. Northern’s rate also adheres to the tuition restraint language in the state’s higher education bill.
The flat rate will be offered for a maximum of 16 credits per semester instead of 18. Gavin Leach, vice president for finance and administration, said most NMU courses are four credits, so students will be able to take a full load of four classes per semester and maintain their ability to graduate in four years. NMU also will create a differential tuition rate to account for cost variations between lower- and upper-division courses—a model used by 10 other state universities. The lower-division tuition rate, for students who have obtained fewer than 56 credits, will increase by $74 per semester. The upper division rate, which applies to students who have obtained 56 or more credits, will increase by $332 per semester.
The board reviewed two other tuition models with 12.3 and 15 percent increases that demonstrated the widening gap between NMU’s tuition and the state average and would have absorbed the impacts of decreased revenues and increased costs while allowing strategic investment. Trustees said they were “handcuffed” by the tuition restraint language that would impose potentially severe penalties for increases exceeding 4.2 percent.
“We are being unfairly forced to adhere to caps that don’t recognize the dollar differential between state institutions,” said Trustee Bob Mahaney. “It has created a culture of the haves and have nots in higher education. We have to stop taking a band-aid approach; we need to look at long-term solutions and initiate that now.”
Leach said NMU is “projecting a $2.3 million shortfall even with the 4.2 percent increase because it does not counter an anticipated enrollment decline or fully address rising costs associated with a 30 percent utility rate increase, minimum wage increase and mandated overtime rule changes.”
The 30 percent increase to Marquette Board of Light and Power customers being charged to help build the new energy center will cost NMU an additional $500,000-$700,000 for the upcoming fiscal year, Leach added. The minimum wage hike and changes to the federal Fair Labor Standard Act’s (FLSA) overtime law could have a combined $300,000 impact on NMU for fiscal year 2017.
In other action at today’s meeting, the board:
-Approved implementing the following course fees: $5 per credit to cover materials for all art and design courses; $35 per credit for all music courses, excluding music and society; $20 per credit for all biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and geography/environmental science courses (the current biology $25 per lab fee and chemistry $40 per lab fee will be eliminated); $50 for all radiography clinic experience courses to cover the cost of radiation dosimeters provided to students; and a $20 per credit materials fee for 100-level and higher technology and occupational sciences courses;
-Agreed to remove the $10 mathematics tutoring lab fee;
-Approved a refundable recreational pass fee of $79 per semester charged to all students taking six or more credits, which was previously passed by a student vote. The fee will be refundable through the first five days of classes;
-Authorized the university notebook computer program’s annual replacement of 3,980 ThinkPad notebooks for ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 and T460s LTE network-ready premium model notebooks (to include warranty, engineering services, software imaging and shipping costs) and a maximum quantity of 84 MacBook Pro models;
-Agreed that the records management function be moved from archives under academic information services to the internal audit and risk management department in the finance and administration division;
-Agreed that, pursuant to the State of Michigan Public Act 152, NMU will continue to be an 80/20 employer;
-Approved revisions to the NMU student code and NMU residency policy, along with updates to the contract signing authority and parking service ordinance book.