MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University's Board of Trustees reluctantly voted Friday to raise tuition 3.75 percent for the 2013-2014 school year.
"This university has been a great steward of resources the state has put in it," Trustee Steven Mitchell said. "We should be proud. Yes, it's a tough call, but we're still the second-lowest priced university in Michigan. And we're able to do that and still provide a superb education for the students.
"As much as I don't like to do it, I firmly believe it's a decision we have to and should make. I applaud every person associated with this university for making these numbers work. I feel badly, but we have to continue to provide a quality education. It will be hard for some, but I feel they are getting good return on their investment."
The board voted 6 to 1 in favor of the increase.
Trustee Stephen Gulis Jr. did not attend Friday's meeting.
The increase keeps NMU within the tuition restraint level required to secure the full 2.1 percent state appropriations increase per the performance funding formula in the higher education bill approved in June.
With the increase, the annual cost for full-time resident undergraduates will be $9,094, an increase of $328 from last year's rate of $8,766.
Even with the increase, NMU will maintain its longtime position as the institution with the second-lowest tuition and fees among Michigan's public universities.
The university is also increasing financial aid by 6.6 percent, or about $1 million.
Trustee Thomas Zurbuchen said though he would vote for the increase, he'd like to see NMU's administration begin implementing "courageous experiments" on how best to increase revenues to the university while maintaining or cutting costs.
Trustee Gil Ziegler, who cast the lone dissenting vote, compared raising tuition to voltage levels on an electric chair.
"When we're looking at our tuition in relationship to other universities, it's like a warden sitting around talking about voltage on an electric chair - does it make much difference what the voltage is if the job gets done and you kill the person?" Ziegler said. "You can say 'I got the lowest voltage electric chair around,' it doesn't mean much to the guy in it, does it?"
Trustee Stephen Adamini said he has voted to increase tuition every year he's been on the board - seven in total - and that he fears this increase may be "the straw that breaks the camel's back" for some people's ability to afford a higher education.
"What we do here today is not going to affect the very wealthy - they'll just pay for this increase out of petty cash - and I do believe it's not going to affect the very needy because we've taken care of that by transferring more money to student aid," Adamini said. "But it is going to have an effect on the vast number of people between those two extremes."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is email@example.com