The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees today approved a 2015-16 tuition and fees schedule. The annual cost for full-time resident undergraduates will be $9,680, an increase of $149 per semester—or 3.2 percent—from last year’s rate of $9,383. NMU will maintain its longtime rank as having the second-lowest tuition and fees among Michigan’s public universities and the lowest in the Upper Peninsula. Northern’s rate adheres to the tuition restraint language in the higher education budget signed Wednesday by the governor.
The board also voted to increase graduate tuition, which ranked lowest in the state. Resident graduate students will pay $474 per credit hour, an increase of $33.
Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration) said the tuition recommendation factored in enrollment projections, increased utility charges, contractual obligations and other inflationary costs.
“Our goal is always to remain a quality provider of one of the best educational values in Michigan,” said Leach. “We are committed to enhancing the academic experience by strategically investing in new and high-demand programs, student services, technology and infrastructure. Our ability to preserve quality and access has been challenged by declining high school demographics and enrollment. Yet we have managed to exercise tuition restraint, make significant budget reductions and control cost increases below the rate of inflation. Northern ranks among the highest in overall staffing efficiency ratios among state institutions.”
Based on enrollment and fiscal projections, Leach told the board all university divisions have identified preliminary budget reductions of 3.2 percent—$3.4 million total—for fiscal year 2016. All proposals will be prioritized based on their impact to strategic goals, core values and critical operations of the university before a final review and implementation.
Most trustees acknowledged that NMU will need to exceed the state tuition cap at some point to close the expanding gap between NMU and other institutions and to make investments required to move the university forward. The tuition motion included an amendment proposed by Trustee Bob Mahaney of Marquette. It charges President Fritz Erickson and his administration to begin developing a strategy that details a recommended tuition increase for next year, the impact on students and how the money will be invested.
“I wholeheartedly agree that the state funding formula penalizes those institutions like Northern that have worked hard to keep costs down,” Mahaney said. “It benefits those that have had higher tuition because a certain percentage increase has a more pronounced impact in terms of actual dollars. We need to make a greater level of investment than what’s been made over the last several years. To me, it’s not a question of if we will need to go higher than the cap, but when. Rather than surprise people now, let’s begin putting a plan in place so students and other constituencies know this is the direction we’re going next year, here’s why and here’s how the revenue will be used.”
Leach showed the board significant fluctuations in revenue sources. In 1994, the state’s appropriation accounted for more than 67 percent of NMU’s general fund revenue, with tuition and fees contributing 31 percent. There was almost a complete reversal by 2014, with state appropriation at 34 percent and tuition and fees at 64 percent.
To put NMU’s undergraduate rate in perspective, Leach shared a State of Michigan database comparison with other state universities based on 2014-15 rates (some haven’t set rates for this year). Only Saginaw Valley State University was lower at $8,690. The statewide average was $11,452 and the highest rate was $14,940 at Michigan Tech.
Other changes for this fall approved by the NMU board are: a $5 increase in the one-time student athletic fee, bringing it to $240; a $10 fee for communications and performance studies majors to cover maintenance and replacement of technology in the Mac Lab; a $20 fee for students taking a mountain bicycling class to cover the use of the Noquemanon Trail Network; and a $25 fee for students taking an emergency health care lab to cover supplies and allow for the purchase of new mannequins and casualty simulation materials.
In other action at today’s meeting, the board:
▪Approved the negotiated agreement between NMU and the American Association of University Professors-NMU Chapter, which spans five years from July 1 through June 30, 2020.
▪Authorized a Teaching, Learning and Communication notebook program modification so the university can purchase premium-model computers (the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon) with built-in LTE network adapters. The university plans a four-year replacement cycle, but will have more flexibility in adjusting inventory based on usage and emerging technology.
▪Approved the $1 million donor-funded Beaumier Alumni Welcome and U.P. Heritage Center
▪Granted Professor Emeritus status to Russell Magnaghi, history, and the following from English: Candy Bays, Peter Goodrich, Ron Johnson, Paul Lehmberg, Beverly Matherne and John Smolens.
▪Agreed that the Identity, Brand and Marketing office should be renamed University Marketing and Communications.
▪Approved the university’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policy and medical amnesty policy. The latter was recently drafted to ensure that students receive prompt and appropriate attention for alcohol or other drug-related emergencies, and that there are no barriers to seeking such assistance.