Forum Provides Updates on Budget, Enrollment

Monday 17, 2017

NMU administrators addressed several issues at the April 13 university forum, including potential implications of state and federal budget proposals and positive preliminary indicators of fall enrollment.

Gavin Leach, vice president for Finance and Administration, gave an update on the state appropriations process. He said the governor’s executive budget calls for a 2.5 percent overall funding increase for higher education. The Senate and House versions would increase funding by 2 and 1.9 percent, respectively. All include tuition restraint language to keep increases at or below 3.8 percent or $475, whichever is higher.

“Where will it end up? There’s still a May revenue estimating conference and last year, some factors changed between when they came out with their initial bills and May, when they came out with their final bills,” Leach said. “The House and Senate proposals may be driven by potential changes in tax policy and revenue collection at the state level. Some of that may be factored into those numbers and account for the variation between where the governor is and where the House and the Senate are.”

Leach showed comparisons of median earnings and unemployment rates among those with and without college degrees. While the data demonstrate the value of higher education to individuals’ futures, he said the state’s investment in public universities has declined over the years, putting more pressure on tuition revenue.

An inflation-adjusted calculation by the Michigan Association of State Universities shows a reduction of almost $1 billion in state higher education and student aid funding since 2002. The state funding per full-time student has decreased 44 percent since 2000, from $9,387 to $5,217, when adjusted for inflation. And while overall state spending rose 19.1 percent from 2002-17, Leach said higher education spending is down 19.5 percent over the same period.

Leach said potential federal budget impacts for FY2019 include nearly $2.7 million in reduced financial aid, namely work study and Perkins loans, and elimination of Corporation of Public Broadcasting support, which would cut $864,000 from WNMU-TV and Public Radio 90.

If the appropriation parameters hold, a potential increase in enrollment for next fall could have a positive impact on next year’s budget. NMU President Fritz Erickson said it is too early in the cycle to project fall numbers with any certainty, but he is “very optimistic” based on preliminary indicators. Erickson said the cautiously good news is that freshmen applications and active admits are both up about 15 percent. Orientation registrations and housing applications are also ahead of last year’s pace. He said many factors contribute to the promising turnaround, from new residence halls and academic programs to marketing efforts to personalized attention when parents and students come to campus.

Erickson reported that the Strategic Planning and Budget Committee has drafted new university mission and vision statements that will be presented to the NMU Board of Trustees for approval. Feedback is welcome before the board’s  May 5-6 meeting.

The proposed mission statement reads: “NMU’s distinctive academic and career programs are nurtured by exceptional teaching and extensive opportunities for scholarship, creativity and engagement. Our supportive, connected community empowers students, graduates, faculty and staff to contribute to a diverse and sustainable world.”

Two vision statement options will be presented. One reads as follows: “NMU: where students, graduates and employees become catalysts for innovation, service and leadership in their local and global communities.” The second states, “NMU promotes an active environment to foster strong minds and bodies, inspires innovation and inclusion through community engagement and develops leaders capable of local and global impact.”

To see the full forum and informational slides, including an update on the Educational Access Network expansion, click here.

Kristi Evans
News Director