Preliminary higher ed budget released

Emily Pagel

Gov. Rick Snyder’s preliminary Executive Budget numbers have been released, and NMU received a higher percentage than the overall average of the state’s 15 public universities.

The Executive Budget, which includes higher education funding, was released on Wednesday, Feb. 5. It will help NMU with it’s higher education goals.

According to Vice President of Finance and Administration Gavin Leach, all 15 public universities are required to fulfill certain aspects of higher education to receive funding through the performance funding formula.

“Universities are required to limit any tuition and fee increase to 3.2 percent or less in order to be eligible to receive any of the new performance funding,” Leach said. “Based on these performance metrics Northern has 6.3 percent in new funding which places us slightly above the overall average of 6.1 percent.”

According to Cindy Paavola Director of Communications and Cindy Paavola, these numbers are only the beginning stages for the budget.

“The governor put out this budget, that’s just the starting point,” Paavola said. “The senate comes up with their version of budget, not just higher education but corrections, revenue, sharing with cities and townships.

“We don’t actually start building the budget on the 6.1 percentage because we know that over the next couple of months there’s going to be a lot of different numbers out there.”

While the preliminary numbers have been highly received by NMU, Leach said there is still a long process before the final numbers are delivered in late May or early June.

“The budget process is far from over,” Leach said. “The appropriations bill still needs to go through the House and Senate where the numbers/percentage increase could still change.  The state funding portion is approximately one-third of our general fund budgeted gross operating revenue. This recommended reinvestment in higher education is a welcome sign from the state and we are thankful for the Governor’s recommended this budget increase.”

According to Leach, the higher ed fund is based on a two-part process.

“Performance funding formula is a method in which the state sets parameters under which universities are measured in determining the amount of appropriation increase they will receive,” Leach said. “The proposed formula this year includes providing half of the new funding being distributed proportional to each university’s fiscal year 2011 state appropriation operations funding for partially restoring reductions made in fiscal year 2012.”

The other half of the new funding is based on a weighted number of undergraduate completions in critical skills areas, research expenditures, six-year graduation rates, total number of completions, administrative costs as a percentage of core expenditures and a new metric based on the number of students receiving Pell Grants.

“The $41.7 million in state appropriation is the amount that the state has given us,” Paavola said. “The 6.3 percent—that equates to $2.6 million—that would be added to the $41.7 million that would be the amount of money the state is providing Northern for operations. It’s very difficult in one year to get a certain amount and then get the same amount when costs are always rising. So if you don’t get an increase that means with that same amount and the costs rising something needs to be readjusted.”

With the higher ed fund, NMU will be able to better the campus for students across a number of areas.

“The dollars we receive will be used to keep tuition affordable at NMU, to invest in our high quality academic programs and university services, and to help cover the inflationary cost pressures the institution faces such as heating/utility costs, compensation costs, and academic supply and materials costs,” Leach said.