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The North Wind

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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.

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Amelia KashianFebruary 22, 2024

Salary freezes needed at Northern

The current economy has left just about the entire country scrambling for remedies, and Northern has not remained untouched. In the past few months alone, a number of private and public universities across the country have instituted salary freezes in the face of the economic crisis. I hope this is a trend that Northern is willing to follow.

Last week, President Les Wong held a forum in which he discussed how the worsening economy was going to affect the university. While much of the information Wong provided is still speculative, the message was clear: Northern is going to face serious budget issues in the 2010 fiscal year and beyond.

One of Wong’s proposed solutions struck me as a particularly logical, though not an all-encompassing, solution: salary freezes.

Wong estimated that, in the next year, Northern will face a budget shortfall of about $4.6 million, between increasing costs and decreasing state appropriations. If employee salaries were frozen for one year, it could save around $2 million.

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That’s a substantial savings, but I think it is important to explore a slightly different type of salary freeze. Across the country, the public has called for CEO’s of major corporations to forgo bonuses or take pay cuts; I feel that we should ask no less of those at the top of the pay scale here. My proposed freeze would only affect those who make a base salary of at least $100,000 a year, and the freeze would last for a period of two years. A targeted freeze of this sort would leave most instructional faculty members untouched and help stave off layoffs across campus.

I do not an advocate an across the board salary freeze because Northern already pays instructors much less than any of the other universities in the state. And it is often these instructors who have the most direct contact with students and have the largest impact on the education of those students. It would be unwise to expect them to give up part of their salaries and remain in their positions at Northern.

Of course, salary freezes are not a panacea for the long-term budget problems NMU may face, but they can contribute to solving the issues currently at hand. It is hard to say how much money a freeze of top salaries would create, but without a doubt it would make an impact on the impending budget cuts.

Those who have a high base salary should be willing to sacrifice pay increases in order to prevent another, more frightening, type of freeze from occuring on this campus.

One of the things NMU will have to decide on is whether or not to accept stimulus dollars from the state. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has recently said public universities should freeze tuition in order to receive stimulus dollars. This is, without a doubt, a terrible idea.

Tuition between 2007 and 2008 only rose by about 5 percent. According to Wong, if tuition were frozen, by 2012 it would have to be raised around 19 percent to make up the difference.

This would mean that if tuition were frozen at its current rate of $7,078 per semester for a resident undergraduate student, it would jump up by about $1,300 in one year. NMU has been trying to keep retention rates high, but with an increase like this, those rates would drop dramatically.

Since I started going to school at Northern in 2005, tuition has increased 21 percent. Essentially, the tuition freeze would create a tuition hike almost equal to the total increases in the last few years.

One of the best things about Northern is that it provides higher education for a reasonable price. I would hate to see a dramatic increase in tuition in the years after I leave here.

I encourage the powers that be to seriously consider salary freezes if they wish to maintain NMU’s reputation as a reasonably priced school while weathering this economic storm.

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