This summer, Northern Michigan University’s Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition for the 2009-2010 school year to help balance expected cuts in state appropriated funding.
The 5.3 percent increase was approved on July 17 and was based on student enrollment numbers and a projected 3.2 percent decrease in state appropriated funding. The tuition for full-time resident undergraduates increased $188 per semester to an annual rate of $7,454. Full-time non-resident students are seeing a $299 per semester increase for a total of $11,828. The board was originally considering a 4.8 percent increase which was enlarged after much discussion.
“There’s no yard stick approach, it’s always a judgment call,” said Douglas Roberts the chair of NMU’s Board of Trustees.
Roberts said that NMU has two primary sources of revenue, state appropriations and student tuition. In 2008, state funding constituted 43 percent of NMU’s general budget.
“Every time they reduce state appropriations we have to take that into account when considering the budget,” he said.
Roberts said that with the decision,
the board was also attempting to balance the quality of the educational experience at NMU with affordability.
“I will be able to look a student or a parent in the face and say, ‘You’re going to get a good value for your buck at this university,'” he said.
NMU will maintain the second lowest tuition of public universities in Michigan. Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University will both be increasing tuition by approximately 5.3 percent, while Saginaw Valley State University will have a 6.3 percent increase.
Gavin Leach, the vice president for finance and administration, said that for the past seven years NMU has been continuously making
budget cuts. In 2002, NMU received $52 million in state funding, and this year NMU will only receive $45.1 million despite having 1,900 more students.
“The board was concerned, as was the administration, about making more cuts,” said Leach.
Leach said that the rise in tuition is being balanced by a 9.8 percent increase in NMU supported scholarships and financial aid. This is largely a result of increases in the Pell Grant, an increase in federal educational tax credits and a reallocation of funds within NMU, said Leach.
“We have a high percentage of need based students, and it was very important for us to secure their ability to attend NMU,” he said.
Leach said that another demographic of students that will be helped by the increase are those who were not awarded merit based scholarships or those with families that do not qualify for Pell grants.
“It’s a group that’s just below the radar, but there is need there,” said Leach.
With increased financial aid, some students will actually find it cheaper to attend NMU this year than last year, said President Les Wong.
NMU has a large population of Pell Grant recipients and approximately 2,000-3,000 students will receive an additional $500 in Pell Grant money that will more than account for the increase in tuition.
Wong said that the tuition increase will help save many student jobs which in turn will help many students earn money for school and expenses.
“Our first priority was to refinance
student labor, which in a way was a recommitment to student assistance,” said Wong.
Despite an increase in tuition, expected cuts in state appropriations and a 2.9 percent reduction planned for this year’s budget, Wong said that he is optimistic about NMU’s future.
“Everyone on campus is concerned about the economy, but I am confident that we are going to work our way through the economic
challenges and preserve the Northern experience,” said Wong.