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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

Budget cuts reviewed

Work to cut $3.06 million from NMU’s budget is continuing.

Following a proposal draft originally submitted to the Strategic Planning and Budgeting Advisory Committee (SPBAC) on Aug. 18, a meeting was held Thursday, Sep. 7 in the University Center to address issues related to the list of proposals. University President Fritz Erickson opened the panel by explaining the magnitude of the reduction plan and why it was necessary to implement it at NMU.

Enrollment is currently down by 419 students, Erickson said, equaling a 5.1 percent decrease in overall students since last winter semester. Graduate-level programs are currently facing a 23 percent decline, and NMU enrolled 57 less freshmen than last year, which is about a 2 percent shortage.

Erickson also said enrollment is important in the budgeting process so the SPBAC can get a precise target reduction number. Erickson factored student headcount as well as generation of revenue as items that had the biggest impact on the overall reduction target.

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“Even on the areas that we estimated where to do budget reductions, we think these estimates are pretty good but at times there’s always some level of refinement,” he said.

A few concerns faculty aired at the panel include misunderstandings about programs with 20 majors or less; the elimination of UN100, a First-Year Experience (FYE) course; initiatives taken to “flatten” administrative structure; potential loss of full-time equivalent (FTE) faculty positions; and cuts expected to come from the athletics division.
Kerri Schuiling, provost and vice president of academic affairs, clarified the process forreviewing academic programs.

“One of the recommendations was to look at programs that, over three years, had an average of 20 majors or less, and I think there was a misunderstanding about that—that those programs would automatically be eliminated and it’s not. What the 20 majors or less will do is invoke a review,” she said.

The reviewing process was confusing for some faculty members because it wasn’t specified if first and second majors, for students with double-majors, would be taken into account when the review begins.

The exact number for courses expected to be reviewed will come from the Institutional Research Department and will include both first and second majors.

Programs that have an enrollment decline twice the percentage of NMU’s enrollment decline and those that have averaged 20 majors or less over a period of three years are what will trigger a review, Schuiling said.
Since 2010, enrollment has fallen by approximately 18 percent and teaching faculty has decreased by 16 percent.

In a detailed explanation, Jim Gadzinski, director of the Academic and Career Advisement Center, went over the dynamics of restructuring UN100: Freshman Seminar, a requirement course for all freshmen students.

Originally, a figure of $300,000 in potential savings was estimated by the elimination of UN100 altogether.

“That figure is a little off. It should be around $192,000,” Gadzinski said.

Gadzinski stated the FYE program has been successful saying, “We have the data to show it.” He added that nationwide FYE data is very positive.

“However, on our campus you can’t separate out UN100 from the rest of the FYE data when we have a blocked approach with Freshman Seminar,” he said.

He  addressed the effect eliminating UN100 would have on retention numbers and what would be alternative costs to offering the program differently.

“Instead of trying to teach 58 different sections of UN100 to 25 students, we’d like to try an approach with larger lecture type of fashion—150 to 200 students, do some large group activities and then break that down into smaller groups.” Gadzinski said by reducing roughly 50 UN100 sections to eight or 10, it would save money.

Another concern presented at the meeting was how “flattening” administrative structure would occur, given that two vice presidential positions were eliminated last year while another VP, a dean position as well as a chief diversity and inclusion officer were added.

Operational restructuring costs of the athletics department were miscalculated as a $98,350 reduction when it should total $103,752, according to a correction made to the original proposal draft.

Forrest Karr, director of athletics, recreational sports and U.S. Olympic training site, said an additional $146,345 was cut from recruiting, travel and labor expenses.

“The men’s basketball temporary labor budget was reduced so there will be one less assistant coach helping out,” Karr said. “The men’s basketball travel budget was reduced so the team is taking one less trip this year and is now playing 26 games instead of 28.”

Karr said coaches and staff in the athletic department will continue bringing in high quality diverse students for all departments on campus, “no matter what.”

“People that work in athletics just aren’t wired to complain,” he said.

Other concerns came in the form of questions regarding a 5-year enrollment plan; the elimination of a dean in the College of Health Sciences and Promotional Studies Office while actively seeking another; the development of in-house compliance software; and advancement division reductions that affect NMU Foundation funds, which is completely separate from the general budget.

The Board of Trustees will meet at 8 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23, the start of homecoming week.

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