ESCANABA - The Escanaba Rotary Club welcomed David Haynes, president of Northern Michigan University, to its meeting Tuesday to speak about the future of the institution and its partnerships with area businesses.
Haynes was appointed as the interim president in May, and started out his new position with the intent of creating and fostering partnerships with businesses, communities and other educational institutions.
"One of the wonderful things about being new - or being called 'the new president' or 'the most recent president' - is I can say I just want to figure out how to move forward with partnerships," said Haynes. "I can't explain why partnerships did happen, or why they didn't happen."
Many NMU students are from Delta County, and Haynes believes NMU needs to prepare students to return to their homes when they enter the workforce. "The plan is to figure out what are the strategic needs of the community, and are we filling it, and where we are not filling it how can we get there?" he said.
While the possibility of creating new programs at NMU is there, the majority of his discussions with businesses in communities across the U.P. are aimed at adapting existing programs.
Fifteen years ago roughly 75 percent of NMU's funding came from state government. Today only around 30 percent of funding comes from the state government, leaving tuition, fees, grants, and donors to balance the budget.
"People have in their heads that the government was going to help them get an education, and that was done in a lot of ways, G.I. Bill, scholarships, Pell grants, etc.," said Haynes. "As that begins to disappear, the university's got to go, 'well, that money isn't coming in,' It's our responsibility to become more cost effective, reduce what we can reduce, and keep offering new programs, and try to keep tuition low."
Despite average student loan debt statewide being upwards of $25,000, NMU has managed to keep the debt for its graduates around $18,000 and maintain the second lowest tuition rate in the state. "We are very good at working with our students on scholarships, keeping tuition low; keeping fees low so they come out with less debt, but it should be less than that," said Haynes.
Haynes, a graduate of NMU himself, is enjoying the opportunity to lead the school and work on its relationships in the community.