NMU’s financial crisis is overstated

NW Staff

In a university forum on April 20, NMU President Les Wong outlined his plan to deal with a proposed Michigan budget that would decrease state appropriations to the university. In his plan, Wong proposed cuts to faculty health care, as well as the elimination of 12 to 24 faculty positions at NMU.

Under Michigan’s current economic stress, these cuts may seem necessary, but according to a study done by Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor of economics at Wright State University, on behalf of the AAUP, NMU’s financial climate is not nearly as precarious as the administration would have us believe.

According to Fichtenbaum’s report, although public universities are under a significant amount of stress, NMU’s debt and financial reserves are moderate compared to other universities. Although our financial situation is not pristine, with select cuts we can avoid eliminating faculty positions and large cuts to employee health care, he said.

Although the issue of employee health care does not directly apply to the students at NMU, the prospect of releasing 12 to 24 faculty members could have a huge effect on our entire university experience. As stated in a report by Ron Sundell, president of NMU’s AAUP chapter, cutting 24 faculty positions would increase our student to teacher ratio to 21.8 students per teacher. That is a full 23 percent higher than the average of our peer universities. This could mean more large lecture classes at the expense of a smaller, more personal class environment. It could also lead to a longer waiting list for required courses for your major, meaning that it could take students even longer to graduate.

With recent cuts to state higher education funding, all Michigan schools need to put things on the chopping block. NMU has dealt with the revenue loss well so far. Since 2004, when the majority of the schools revenue came from state appropriations, NMU has become more independent from state aid. Since 2009, the majority of revenue comes from student tuition. This means that it is more important than ever for our school to keep ahead of the curve on things that students look at when deciding on a college, namely, class size and average graduation time. If NMU ceases to look appealing to prospective students, making cuts to prevent a supposed financial crisis could end up creating a real one.