Health Plan Records Reveal Differences in Budget Impacts Among Employee Groups at NMU

Budget crises have hit NMU hard over the past few years; have the various divisions of the university felt this pressure at a level proportional to their relative institutional size? Head-count is a popular metric used by this administration to describe enrollment; have the head-counts of the various groups of employees across campus divisions been equally impacted by the changing budgets?

This latter question is an interesting one which highlights one of the primary problems with such a metric. Should a student who takes a single 4-credit course be counted as equivalent to a student taking a full load of 16 credits? Similarly, should an employee who worked one month of the year be counted as equivalent to one who worked all 12 months of the year? The answer to both of these questions should obviously be no if the intention is to accurately describe a given population. The past and ongoing impacts on various employee units across campus divisions remains an important consideration as new budget cuts are proposed or enacted, however it is clear that a more useful metric than head-count is required. More often than not, faculty complete full academic years of employment, such that a comparison of fall faculty numbers from year to year gives a reliable representation of the changes and trends, however the same is not true for other employee units on campus, who more commonly have personnel turnover throughout the year.

A review of data provided by Human Resources, which was previously used in the recent investigation which ultimately led to the $262 health care refunds to NMU-AAUP members for over-payments made in the 2015 calendar year, reveals a useful and different metric for comparing the campus personnel trends: months of health plan coverage. Although not all employees on campus enjoy the benefits of the health plan, including the contingent faculty among our own membership, those who do are carefully tracked by HR in order to ensure that benefits are only received for actual periods of employment. Thus a full-time employee who worked an entire year received 12 months of health plan coverage; a new full-time faculty member who began teaching in the fall semester would receive 5 months of health plan coverage (Aug-Dec) for that same year. By examining the total number of months of health plan coverage for each employee group on campus, we begin to see revealing trends regarding personnel on campus. As expected given the shrinking enrollment and correspondingly shrinking budgets, most employee units on campus are shrinking. However, such is not the case for everyone. The following table contains the total number of months of health care coverage for the various employee units for calendar years 2014 and 2015, along with the respective percent change for each group. For reference, the classification of Non-Reps is defined by HR as including Executives, Senior Management, Deans, Department Heads, Senior Administrators, and Coaches.

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1 reply

  1. Excellent work, Brandon. The data speaks to the shift in budgetary priorities at NMU that protect the positions of “non-rep” members of the NMU community at the expense of all others.

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