Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 9, 2014

NMC China trip costs higher than estimates

TRAVERSE CITY — Travel expenses for Northwestern Michigan College officials' recent taxpayer funded, 11-day trip to China surpassed initial cost estimates by almost 50 percent.

NMC President Tim Nelson flew to Beijing March 8 with NMC vice presidents Marguerite Cotto and Chris Weber as part of community college officials' efforts to build relationships with several institutions of higher learning in China.

Officials estimated the trip's cost, which included airfare to China and lodging, travel and food within the Asian nation, would approach $10,000 — the amount budgeted in a special NMC fund for international strategic projects. The price tag for the three administrators' trip was closer to $14,600, college records show.

Nelson, during a college board meeting in late March, called the trip "great" -- despite long days spent traveling and in meetings -- and said he expected a lot of good to come out of it.

"Every day I said 'This was a really important day for the college' and when you can say that after 16-hour, 18-hour days, nine days in a row, there's some pretty important stuff going on," Nelson said.

The trip's total cost incorporates nearly $6,500 in airfare, $3,900 in lodging, $1,300 in per diem payments for meals and $2,300 in other expenses, including buying visas and hiring interpreters.

NMC also paid travel expenses for Gene Jenneman, executive director of the Dennos Museum, who flew to China at roughly the same time as the other three NMC officials to meet with Chinese museum officials and artists.

Jenneman's trip cost the college about $2,800, a bill paid from a "separate museum budget" not included in the original estimate for the other three officials' costs, according to college documents.

Nelson, Cotto and Weber traveled between five Chinese cities and met with officials from four education institutions, including Yellow River Conservancy Technical Institute and Weiming Education Group — an organization with which Traverse City Area Public Schools officials also started working last year.

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