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The North Wind

The North Wind

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.

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

Forum to outline NMU’s financial future

NMU administration officials will hold an all-campus forum next week to outline what steps are ahead for the university, in the wake of the Michigan Senate’s proposal to cut 3.1 percent in appropriations to higher education.

The forum will be held in Jamrich 102 on April 7 at 4 p.m.; President Les Wong said he will discuss how the university plans on meeting projected reductions in funding. Wong said that he will be outlining 10 planning points, a mixture of specific and broad-based approaches to balancing NMU’s budget, that will help the university decrease costs and find new sources of funding.

“We’re trying to focus our planning on both savings and revenues,” Wong said. “For me, the 10 planning points are about balancing the budget and positioning the university, not just cuts.”

The planning points, which Wong said will be expanded upon in detail at the forum, include initiatives such as “assess, evaluate and decrease technology costs” and “identify and implement new policies and procedures that bring about major health care savings, including becoming a smoke-free campus by Jan. 1, 2011.” The planning points also outline a reassessment and review of NMU’s academic portfolio, which are all of the programs and degrees offered by the university.

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“In a tight budget, you’re always trying to examine your priorities,” Wong said. “Where are we successful? Where can we get better? Are there areas that we can just stop (funding)?”

Wong said that it is difficult for the administration to make any concrete decisions due to uncertain enrollment rates and the state’s budget not being finalized, both of which affect NMU’s funding. The Senate’s budget contrasts with the governor’s February proposal, which outlined no cuts to higher education funding. Once the House of Representatives completes their budget, they will work with the Senate to produce an official budget, which is then approved by the governor.

Wong said that he hopes the final budget will reflect the governor’s proposal. He expects the final cuts to be close to 3.1 percent, which will translate into roughly $1.4 million in lost funding. Wong said that, due to federal stipulations, 3.1 percent is the highest amount that state legislators can cut from higher education without endangering Michigan’s Stimulus Bill funding.

Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration, said that it is too early to predict to what degree tuition prices will increase, if they increase at all.

“That’s a discussion that we will be having with (the Board of Trustees) in the likelihood of a 3.1 percent cut. We look at everything when it comes down to that decision,” he said.

Leach said it is possible that a larger cut to funding could occur if the federal government waived Michigan’s obligations to Stimulus Bill requirements. Leach said that some of the 10 planning points, specifically “… space and schedule consolidation to maximize use of general classroom space and maximize energy savings,” have already been implemented to some extent. The closure of Jamrich Hall during the weekends has resulted in savings for the university in terms of operating costs, in terms of heating and energy expenditures, said Leach.

“The other thing that we are looking at is doing some performance contracting over the summer and looking at systems that we can replace and (possibly) see some energy savings,” he said.

The situation that NMU is facing is not only shared by universities across the state, but also by institutions nationwide, Leach said.

“The challenges are never ending these days, it’s a challenge right now across the state,” Leach said. “Michigan has been facing this for the past seven to eight years. Some other states are getting hit all at once.”

The NMU Board of Trustees will make many of the decisions about how the planning points will be implemented based on recommendations from the administration and representatives from various other organizations on campus. Doug Roberts, chair of the Board of Trustees, said that it is important that the educational quality of NMU is affected as minimally as possible by the decisions that they make.

“The most important issue for (the Board of Trustees) is to do a balancing act between providing a quality education at an affordable cost,” Roberts said. “If we raise tuition too high, students don’t come. If don’t raise it high enough, we can’t provide quality staff.”

Roberts said it is important that everyone involved works together and are willing to compromise in order to find financial stability for the university.

“This is a terrible economic downturn, not everyone is going to be happy when it’s all said and done,” Roberts said. “There’s not a whole lot that any of us can do but make the best decisions we can.”

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