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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Hannah Jenkins
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Hi! My name is Hannah Jenkins, and I am one of the copy editors here at the North Wind. I am a sophomore at NMU, and I love all things writing and editing-related. I am proud to be a part of this great...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

University leaders address economic troubles in forum

During the University Forum last week, NMU President Les Wong told a group of Northern students, faculty and staff that the future of student loans looks promising, despite the national economic downturn. During the presentation, which was held in Whitman Hall, Wong remained positive, yet cautious.

“What we’re seeing is that the majority of the loans our students have – and I say this without trying to be funny – are with banks that still exist,” he said. “Most of them are on guaranteed lending practices with the federal government so that the loan packages for the winter and, we believe, the next year, are OK.

“However, all bets are off if things continue to tumble.”

Wong said the university is examining the state of the credit markets daily, as that will strongly affect student access to loans and grants to pay for schooling. He added that a recently signed higher education bill, along with conditions included in the recent $700 billion bailout, seem to ensure student loans.

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“At least up front, there is every indication that the outputs that our students use for financing are intact,” Wong said. “Clearly, we will continue to monitor that.”

NMU Vice President of Finance and Administration Gavin Leach, who also spoke at the forum, said the financial aid office has been contacting banks that provide loans to NMU students.

“The biggest thing we’ve been looking at so far is the support for winter, as well as fall of 2009 and 2010 winter,” he said. “Everything looks secure through next winter. The support for 2009-2010 on the federal direct loans side – they’ve pledged support in that area. Again, we’ll have to see how that plays out, but right now it sounds promising.”

Mike Rotundo, director of financial aid, said his office has not seen a noticeable decline in the amount of students applying for the Sallie Mae Signature Loan, that company’s main private loan.

“(The economic trouble) has not trickled into our student base,” he said. “Will it in the future? Quite possibly, and quite possibly not.”

Leach also suggested that students might want to think about whether their financial situation has changed since the start of the year. If it has, they can receive a re-evaluation and the financial aid office may be able to help them find additional monetary assistance.

The forum, an event held at least once a semester, had been moved up from November in order to address the many questions Wong had received about NMU’s plan to adapt to the ever-changing economy.

“There are clearly more questions out there than answers, but I am proud to say that I think our crystal ball has been better than other peoples’ crystal balls,” Wong said. “In general, no one’s crystal ball has been very good.”

He also said the university will remain on the same path, but added that all expenditures will now face more serious consideration.

“We are going to move forward, albeit more cautiously and perhaps more slowly than we have in the past six to eight years,” Wong said.

Northern is also going to move ahead with the hiring processes that are currently underway. Wong said that the university has no plans to freeze hiring on campus, although that decision may have to be reconsidered in the future.

“Now, it’s no surprise to you when I say that we may have to delay or postpone (hiring), depending on what the state of Michigan looks like in a couple months,” he said.

Wong also said NMU would have to scale back some of the initiatives included in the Roadmap to 2015, but that the university would still use the plan to guide any future improvements.

“We are not going to put the car in neutral. We are not going to turn the motor off. We have too much momentum going right now,” Wong said. “But we certainly are going to be more cautious as we move this institution toward the goals that we have set.”

The president also noted that NMU has faced budget troubles in the recent past – such as Michigan’s own economic struggles of the last few years – and said he has confidence that the university will be able to cope with a shifting economic landscape on a national level, as well.

“We navigated storms then, we will navigate storms today, and we will navigate storms effectively tomorrow.”

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