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A map on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. 

TRAVERSE CITY — The Northwestern Michigan College faculty union reached an agreement with the administration and solidified a three-year contract that includes yearly salary raises.

According to NMC Faculty Association President, Brandon Everest, the agreement follows weeks of mediation between the two parties. This is the third contract that has been negotiated since faculty members first organized in 2015.

“I am so proud of the collaboration and respect both parties demonstrated during this negotiating process. We are truly living our NMC values,” NMC President Nick Nissley said in a statement.

The actual percentage of salary increase depends on each faculty member’s tenure and position on NMC’s 15-step salary schedule. Teaching experience and education levels are taken into consideration for new NMC hires when deciding what step they fall on. Previous reporting stated that all faculty used to start on steps one through five, regardless of their experience.

According to a statement from NMC, 39 percent of the faculty are only eligible for the 5 percent increase this year. For years two and three, the base salary increase ranges from 2 percent to 5.71 percent, depending on the individual’s position on the same 15-step salary schedule, a report said.

However, Everest said despite the yearly salary increases, some members of the faculty are concerned about whether it will be enough with rapidly rising inflation rates.

“While we’re happy with the contract, we are concerned, like everybody, about what the next couple of years are going to bring with regard to inflation,” he said.

In addition to the yearly salary increases, the ratified contracts said faculty are eligible for a teaching incentive award of between $1,015 and $2,030 per year for teaching courses in a variety of formats, such as online, livestream or hyflex. Everest estimated 90 percent of NMC faculty will qualify for this incentive.

According to a statement from Everest, this incentive may expire with the contract on July 31, 2025.

The funding for these salary increases will come from the main budget for the college, which is made up by property taxes, state appropriation fees and student tuition and fees, according to Troy Kierczynski, vice president of finance and administration for NMC.

In recent years, Kierczynski said property taxes for NMC have increased to around 8.2 percent because of the rising real estate values in town.

He said there is currently a plan to boost marketing in an effort to keep student enrollment numbers the same, or better. Cari Noga, NMC communications director, said they have seen enrollment numbers decline over the past couple of years as a result of a myriad of factors, including the pandemic and lower numbers of younger people in the area.

She said the tuition increases over the past two academic years cannot be isolated as a sole reason for lower enrollment rates.

On June 27, the NMC Board of Trustees announced a tuition increase of 5 percent for the 2022-2023 academic year. Last year, in 2021, the board announced a 3 percent increase in tuition, but dropped a fee that equated to $20 per contact hour for classes that were solely held online.

Noga said NMC did not raise tuition or fees from 2020-2021 because of the pandemic. During the beginning of COVID-19, she said the faculty contract that was negotiated in 2019, which also included salary increases, stayed the same.

“NMC recognizes that it’s been a challenging year for everyone’s budget,” Noga said. “We think that with both the tuition rates that were set at the end of June, and this faculty contract, which includes a raise, makes the best of the situation.”

She said NMC believes they need to invest in their faculty in order to accomplish the educational goals the college has for its students.

According to Noga, community colleges typically charge a quarter of the tuition that state four-year universities do, for all of the same credit.

“We’re doing the best we can during a challenging year, where inflation is affecting everyone’s pocketbook,” Noga said.

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