Granholm finalizes budget

James Dyer

Last week, Jennifer Granholm signed the proposed higher education budget for Michigan, finalizing the state budget for the 2011 fiscal year. Appropriations to universities, including financial aid, will be set at $1.6 billion for the upcoming year, and with cuts in appropriation for operating costs at 2.8 percent, from the previous year.

The last round of appropriation bills, including the higher education budget, was signed into law by Jennifer Granholm on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

“I am disappointed that our legislative leaders chose to cut funding for our universities for next year. I am hopeful that our next legislature will be more committed to protecting this critical funding, including restoration of the Michigan Promise,” Granholm said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm finalized Michigan’s FY 2011 budget and signed it into law on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Was presented to Granholm on Sept. 29 after being debated throughout the summer by Michigan legislature. // Photo courtesy of

The 2011 budget was still moving through the legislative branch when the NMU board of trustees set the tuition rates for this year back in July. While the cuts to higher education funding are unfortunate, NMU has been making preparations to deal with possible budget cuts for over a year, said Gavin Leach, vice president of finance at NMU. NMU projected cuts between 2.6 percent and 3.1 percent when establishing a budget for this fall, Leach said.

“Unfortunately, it has become the norm that the budget will not be passed until the end of September. It does affect our budget preparation, as we are three months into our new fiscal year before we find out for sure what our funding level will be from the state,” Leach said.

The university predicted cuts in state funding and cut its own budget to adapt, he said.

“The funding cuts have an impact on many areas of the University. We try to prioritize to ensure students continue to receive a high- quality education,” Leach said.

With the cuts this year NMU is set to receive approximately 45 million from the state, less than the university was given in 1997, when the university enrolled almost 2,000 fewer students.

In order to facilitate these cuts, NMU has cut its budget by $1.1 million by reorganizing and cutting staff in the information and technology areas, the human resource department and the academic division, and by implementing utility cost-saving measures.

These cuts have been foreseen by the university for some time, said NMU president Les Wong. NMU began making preparations for a budget reduction last January.

“Our model for this year’s NMU budget was based on a 3.1 percent budget cut. It could have been a lot worse,” Wong said.

While the budget was supposed to be finalized by this summer when the university set tuition, because of the planning done by administration, NMU shouldn’t see any changes in its programs and the curriculum, Wong said.

Wong said that he hopes the trend in cuts will not continue, but NMU will adapt with the budget cuts if necessary.

“We need to continue to ask, what are things that could position the university for the future? I’m very proud of what Northern is doing to keep school affordable,” Wong said.

At the July 9 board of trustees meeting, the board raised tuition to deal with a possible state appropriations cut. President Wong hopes that it will not be necessary to raise tuition again next year, but there is a possibility that students will be paying more next year.

“A lot depends on what the state does. This current model (of cuts) isn’t going to help Michigan in the future. One of the primary catalysts of positive change is education,” Wong said.