NMU officials discuss funding, branding, parking

MARQUETTE – As the Michigan Legislature continues to keep an eye toward performance-based funding in higher education, Northern Michigan University is making one simple request: pick a formula and stick with it.

“Our message is and will continue to be that stable formula funding is essential,” NMU Director of External and Corporate Relations Deanna Hemmila told a small crowd gathered in Jamrich Hall room 103 for a University Forum. “You can’t keep changing the pieces because then you can’t ever measure what we’re doing.”

The forum covered several topics, including the recently proposed executive and state House budgets.

“What you’re going to see in the headlines over the next couple of days … the House is looking to penalize university’s who have negotiated long-term contracts with their bargaining units in advance of right-to-work (legislation implementation),” Hemmila said. “It is not our issue, but that’s what’s going to dominate the headlines.”

Hemmila said the House budget could penalize the University of Michigan $41 million and Wayne State University $27 million – money that could end up back in the performance-based funding pool and could potentially be redistributed to the other public universities in the state.

NMU Vice President for Finance Gavin Leach also spoke about current and potential sequestration cuts that will affect the university – specifically in financial aid, student services and public broadcasting.

Leach said cuts to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have already taken effect, and mean a $44,000 loss to the university.

An additional $40,000 could be lost by the start of the fall semester in some student support services, such as Upward Bound and Americorps.

NMU Interim President David Haynes also spoke briefly at the forum concerning the university’s ongoing branding study.

Stamats Inc. has completed its initial study, which culminated in several volumes worth of data that international marketing firm Genesis Inc. will use to build a marketing strategy for the university.

Haynes said the Stamats study showed Northern’s public perception of its academics was weak and that the university’s controversial “right-to-try” policy – which allows almost any student, regardless of grade point average, to be accepted to the school – was particularly polarizing among alumni and students.

Haynes said the study showed alumni thought it was a positive, while students on campus seemed to dislike it.

Jim Thams, NMU associate director of engineering and planning, also spoke about parking on campus. With construction set to begin Monday on the university’s new $34.3 million Jamrich Hall, parking between the Learning Resources Center and the Hedgcock building will eventually be eliminated.

Thams offered suggestions on other lots that would best serve certain buildings on campus.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.