Face-to-face classes are goal, decision to come in a few weeks

Isabelle Tavares

Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson says he is committed to holding face-to-face classes for fall 2020, and is optimistic about enrollment after initially anticipating a 10% drop for September. Optimistic today, yes, but with a big asterisk—What will the world look like when it comes time to make decisions for fall semester? Erickson is working under the assumption, and recommendation from the NMU Board of Trustees (BOT), that NMU should open classes in the fall. A task force has been created to operate within compliance of CDC recommendations and government mandates. The task force is tackling issues such as modifying dining services and managing the PEIF for the coming semester.


Still, the college expects there will be a budget shortfall. In an email to staff and faculty April 15, 2020, Erickson asked Northern’s division leaders to develop contingency plans to determine where cuts can be made and money saved to prepare for at least $8.7 million in cuts.


“Our board is committed to the idea of opening in the fall. Everyone is anxious to get students back,” Erickson said. “We really have been working towards finding ways to bring students back to be face-to-face whenever possible.”


By May 1, Erikson plans to have answers on which areas will receive cuts. Erickson will first present this compiled information at the next BOT meeting set for Thursday, April 30 at 11:30 a.m. Decisions will be made within a few weeks. Erickson suspects the $8.7 million cut will be a combination of cuts, reserves and possible partnerships, which will be developed over time.


Enrollment numbers, including how many students have signed up for summer orientation, are difficult to analyze right now, he said. A date to host orientation has not been set, so students and parents have not been able to sign up. Regardless of the absence of reliable statistics, Erickson said he’s growing in optimism about fall enrollment.


“We are all working hard and have very innovative ideas. At the end of the day I’m looking forward to getting students on campus if at all possible and my expectation is that we will be back by fall,” Erickson said.