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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Dallas Wiertella
Dallas Wiertella
Multimedia Editor

Through my experience here at the North Wind I have been able to have the privilege of highlighting students through all forms of multimedia journalism. Whether I'm in front or behind the camera, I aim...

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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

Winter course catalog thinned

As the mid-semester point passes, students are preparing to enroll in classes for the winter semester, but as rumors start and die, some can’t help but wonder how a $2.6 million budget deficit is going to affect their education.

Gavin Leach, vice president for Finance and Administration, said administration is working hard so students see minimal changes as the year rolls forward.

“We have an obligation to the students to deliver the courses that they need to graduate,” Leach said. “We will ensure that does happen with the courses available to do so. We are trying to minimize the impact seen as a result of the reductions.”

For the 2014-2015 school year, the university found itself in a $2.6 million deficit. Administration had budgeted $78.8 million in tuition but only received an estimated income of $76.1 million, according to Leach. The decline prompted administration to allocate targets from which money could be drawn.

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The university set targets on divisions in the general fund budget, which includes educational and general support areas like academic and administrative departments, plant operations and financial aid.

The $108 million budget is financially supported by tuition and fees as well as state appropriations.

The other large budget at NMU is auxiliary services, which includes dining services, the health center, bookstore and housing and residence life. Residence and housing life rests at a $13.6 million budget and $19.6 million is accounted for in dining and the other auxiliary services. The state requires these departments to be self-funded because state funds can only be used for instructional support.

Each identified division is currently working on finding potential reductions. The targeted divisions work with department heads to sort through necessary potential adjustments.  From there, it enters a prioritization process.

Decreased enrollment opened up the idea of finding cuts in course section reduction, Leach said. Section cuts reduce the number of adjuncts and faculty, which is typically based on student enrollment.

David Lucas, the physics department head, said he’s witnessed budget cuts in 25 of the last 30 years he’s worked at NMU. In his experience, academic departments usually left the budget crises unscathed because there is no money to take unless positions are cut since their budgets are largely based upon salaries and benefits.

The physics department, like several others, has a reserve set up within the department from “carry forward” money, which is budget surplus and revenue brought in from summer school.

In light of the budget decline, Lucas has pulled money from that fund to pay for one or two adjuncts a semester as what he calls a “gesture of good faith.”

Lucas said he worries that not hiring adjuncts will put too much stress on the faculty and staff that have to pick up the pieces missing staff members will create.

Many departments are looking at consolidating course sections, though Lucas said he sees a potential problem with students having to push back their graduation date or transferring due to low class selection. In theory it could work, but Lucas said he just doesn’t see it being a productive measure to keeping students.

“Ideally, they want to save money by cutting lower enrolled sections in low-level, non-major classes,” Lucas said. “I just don’t think there’s a lot of money to be saved there.”

Mark Paulsen, the chemistry department head, said heads were instructed to prepare as “lean” of a course schedule for the upcoming semester as possible but the departments were not given specific dollar amounts.

Department heads were also told to use as few adjuncts as possible. While Paulsen said he believes both should cut costs, he worries about department morale.

“Over 90 percent of chemistry’s budget is for faculty and staff so people in the department were rightly concerned about possible job losses,” Paulsen said. “This is particularly true of contingent faculty and adjunct faculty in the department since their positions are most vulnerable to cuts.”

Other areas that are being investigated are open positions and one-time savings that can be held off until the following year. Service budgets that may affect student and temporary labor are being looked at as well, Leach said.

Overall, Leach said the university has a job to complete and will follow through in any way it can.

“We want to deliver a high quality education and learning environment on campus.That is the ultimate goal and that’s what we’ll end up with,” Leach said.

“We just have to go through a process to get there based on our current resources, which is what we’re working through now.”

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