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Board OKs scholarship initiatives

At NMU

Signage at one of the entrances at Northern Michigan University in Marquette is pictured. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees recently approved two new scholarship initiatives.

The Transfer UP-Winter Awards will support students who want to enroll at NMU for the winter 2021 semester, which begins Jan. 19. A new $1 million U.P. scholarship fund is also being developed to assist freshmen and transfer students from the Upper Peninsula entering NMU in fall 2021.

The one-time Transfer UP-Winter Awards apply to Michigan residents in three categories of students who begin at NMU in January. First-year students who qualified for NMU scholarships for fall 2020, but did not enroll, will receive either the previously approved amount or the Transfer UP award of $1,000, whichever is higher.

Michigan transfer students who enroll for the first time at NMU this winter will receive a $1,000 bonus. Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society community college students will receive the $1,000 Transfer UP Award, in addition to NMU’s standard PTK award of $500 per semester, for a total of $1,500 for winter 2021.

“In the midst of fluctuating circumstances related to the COVID-19 virus, students had to make decisions about college this fall that, for various reasons, perhaps didn’t align with their first choice,” said NMU Admissions Director Gerri Daniels in a statement. “We’re trying to offer support during this challenging time and assist those students who would like to enroll at Northern next semester.”

The NMU board also approved a new perpetual $1 million scholarship fund to assist prospective U.P. students and their families. The fund recognizes the challenges many U.P. families face and provides support for attaining an education close to home. The details of the new fund will be finalized by the first board meeting in 2021.

The board also OK’d Employee Appreciation COVID-19 Grants for active full-time employees in support of the sacrifices and cost savings of furloughs made by NMU faculty and staff during the pandemic.

NMU President Fritz Erickson explained the grant in a letter to faculty and staff.

“The grant for full-time employees will be the greater of $1,000 or 1.92% of your salary, with awards capped at $2,880,” he said. “That percentage, 1.92%, is the rate of last summer’s furloughs. Contingent faculty and graduate assistants will receive a partial award.”

Erickson said that throughout the spring and summer, NMU had addressed the anticipated budget shortfall for fiscal year 2020, which ended June 30, and was forced to use the best information it had at the time and plan for the most likely scenarios.

“Factors were very fluid then and, for the most part, continue to be so even now,” Erickson said. “However, for the closing fiscal year, several of the most likely scenarios turned out to be better than expected by June 30.” These included:

≤ The expected executive order reduction in appropriation for fiscal year 2019-20 ended up not being as large as anticipated.

≤ Investment returns for fiscal year 2019-20 were higher than expected.

≤ Higher than anticipated energy savings from the facility closures from April to June.

≤ Lower than anticipated supply, materials and services expenditures due to facility closures and remote operations.

“Like it was last spring, it is hard to predict what our budget picture for next year will be at this point,” Erickson said. “The state has a big deficit to manage in light of the pandemic situation. How that impacts university funding next year is unknown at this time.

“Enrollment levels look to be lower but how much lower is hard to predict. However, I feel we have a solid budget plan in place for this year and good contingency options to fall back on as needed in the future.”

Erickson said it is anticipated the grant distribution to be with paychecks received on Dec.10.

NMU Trustee and Finance Committee Chairman Steve Young said during the board meeting that the measures accomplish two things: positioning NMU to attract new students and recognition of faculty and staff efforts.

“The reason we’re able to do this is that our financial situation has improved to an extent where it allows us to do some one-time incentives, and that was not the case several months ago when we first started talking about this, but it has changed,” Young said.

Board Vice Chairwoman Tami Seavoy said the COVID-19 grants will represent a “meaningful amount” that will go to employees.

“I like the way that this is structured with a base amount and a cap amount,” Seavoy said.

Trustee Jim Haveman said the efforts will benefit the students and the faculty.

“It’s just the right thing to do, and I’m glad to support this,” Haveman said.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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