MARQUETTE - The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees voted this morning to increase the university's tuition by 6.99 percent for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Resident undergraduate students will pay an additional $550 per year for tuition, to a total of $8,414.04 annually. Non-resident undergraduates will pay an additional $862 per year, resident graduate student rates will increase by $27.50 per credit hour, non-resident graduate student rates will increase by $38.75 per credit hour and MBA students will face an increase of $38 per credit hour. There will be no increase to NMU's $125 student athletic fee.
The final vote came during the board's regular meeting this morning, based on a recommendation by the Finance Committee. The full board voted 7-1 in favor of the increase, with trustee Gilbert Ziegler dissenting.
The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees this morning discusses the proposal to increase NMU’s tuition by 6.99 percent for the 2011-2012 academic year. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"I feel as if I'm sitting here with a revolver pointed to my head. I have to cast a vote today that I do not like to cast," board trustee Stephen Adamini said prior to the vote in Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting. "After five years (on the board), I am absolutely convinced that I am participating - reluctantly - in the destruction or abandonment of public education at the university level, drip by drip."
Gavin Leach, NMU vice president for finance and administration, said the university has implemented numerous cost-savings measures, including a reduction in capital equipment and student labor costs, a limit on travel and supplies and a shift to a three-year lease in the university-wide laptop program.
Still, NMU faces costs that are rising with inflation, a possible 1 percent decrease in enrollment and a 15 percent slash to statewide university funding.
"The discussion really does center on academic quality and curriculum," NMU President Les Wong said. "I want to be able to offer students and their families an affordable degree."
Justin Brugman, president of the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University, said the hike would be tough on students.
"Tuition increases are hard, especially for those that are struggling to pay their tuition bill every semester," Brugman said. "However, I understand where the board is coming from. Dr. Wong and the board really do have the students' best interest in mind, but the state legislators are not giving them a good situation to deal with."
The 6.99 percent increase is the second highest among the 10 Michigan public universities that have made tuition decisions for the coming year, second only to Oakland University's 7 percent raise.
Ferris State's board of trustees was scheduled to meet Wednesday night, while the boards of Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University are slated to meet later this week.
The state budget includes incentives for universities that keep tuition hikes at or below 7.1 percent. For NMU, raising tuition by more than that would mean a loss of more than $2 million in state funding.
The university will receive roughly $38.4 million in state appropriations next year. In 2002, that number was $51 million. That shift indicates a deep problem, according to trustee Jon LaSalle.
"It's a national phenomenon, if not an institutional phenomenon, with higher education," he said. "I've become resigned to the idea that in my time as trustee, I will not see an increase."
Trustee Stephen Gulis highlighted the fact that the cost of a credit hour is actually going down, as the university is cutting costs. Expenditures in 2011-2012 will be lower than in 2010-2011.
However, state funding is falling at a faster rate, resulting in higher tuition rates being forced on students and families.
Wong said that the budget projections are based on a number of factors - like enrollment - that may shift.
"If, in fact, our enrollment or other revenue sources come in above (expectations), our first responsibility is to the curriculum - hiring more faculty," Wong said.
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.