Northern Michigan University is important, both educationally and economically, to the Upper Peninsula and the State of Michigan. NMU is the U.P.'s largest institution of higher education and one of its top five employers. (2005 economic impact: $287 million; 4,800 jobs; a 500 percent return on the public dollar).
NMU is enjoying its ninth consecutive year of enrollment growth. Its student body of just over 9,700 is the highest in school history. While continuing to serve as the university of choice for the majority of the U.P. college-bound students, Northern has become increasingly attractive to students from Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin, thus adding new money to the U.P. economy – dollars that wouldn’t be in the state if these students chose another university.
Northern remains the second most affordable public university in Michigan and that includes the use of a notebook computer and access to a campus-wide technology program for all full-time students. NMU is committed to providing access to all of Michigan’s students, regardless of financial background.
Northern is unique among Michigan’s 15 public universities in that it is the only rural Masters I comprehensive university in the state. That is important because many of the factors that have a significant impact on NMU’s student body do not impact student bodies at other peer institutions that are not located in a rural setting. These include such factors as higher financial need among the NMU student body and increased weather-related utility costs.
Northern is pleased to see that the governor's executive budget treats NMU equal to its peer institutions, and that this legislative proposal has taken into consideration some of the factors most important to a rural comprehensive school, such as access and affordability.
Funding formulas traditionally produce big winners and big losers, depending on the factors used in the equation. A formula can easily be made that would help NMU funding and hurt other schools. Northern strongly supports the idea that state policymakers add new dollars to the higher education funding mix to raise the floor for universities that have been under-funded in the past due to increased enrollment. Northern also believes that if funding is to be based on a formula, more than one formula will be needed.
To really serve the state and to accomplish the goal of doubling the number of college graduates, all universities should not be forced to be exactly the same. That there are differences is a good thing. Many NMU students select Northern because of its tradition of smaller class size and personal attention. These students might not thrive at large institutions such as Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State.
Policymakers should not assume that the Michigan public universities that do not fall under the Carnegie classification system as “research institutions” are not doing research. In fact, that is far from the truth. All of Michigan’s colleges and universities have considerable amounts of research taking place on their campuses, including NMU. For example, Northern students are involved in cancer and brain tumor research.
Reward NMU for innovation, balanced budgets and continuing to serve the region, despite limited increases in state funding since fiscal year 2001. Since 2003, NMU has cut more than $13 million from its general fund budget.
Northern is uniquely prepared to help Michigan achieve its goal to double the number of college graduates. Significant growth in college-bound students will not come from among those at the highest-achieving end of their high school academic work, but from those in the middle and at the lower end. For decades, NMU has worked to create programs that provide all students the “opportunity to try and succeed.” With these programs already in place and a desire to grow our student population to more than 10,000, Northern can accommodate the growth in student numbers the State of Michigan desires to see.
As you are all aware, the state budget currently proposed has a HUGE negative impact on Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula. But YOU CAN HELP! Citizen's voices are having an impact in Lansing with our legislators. We strongly urge you to take action by contacting U.P. legislators or Michigan's legislative leadership.
Below is a list of talking points that can be used to express the need to find a solution to these budget problems and not just put on a band aid that negatively impacts our community.