Hearing Montana State University-Northern Chancellor James Limbaugh talk to the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce Wednesday reminded many in the audience of how the future of the college and the future of the Hi-Line community are so closely intertwined.
The college directly pumps millions of dollars into the community and offers the community lots of hope for the future.
The chancellor said Northern is the most rural college in the country, which points to some of the challenges it faces, and it points to the many reasons it is so essential to our area.
When Limbaugh asked for a show of hands, nearly half of the audience had attended Northern. Had he asked, we’re sure that a good percentage more would have had relatives who were Lights, and many more who work there.
Thousands of people have gotten a college education, even though their life circumstances wouldn’t enable them to go off the Hi-Line for their schooling.
But the importance to the Hi-Line is far beyond that.
No other college will have the understanding of our area and what it needs to give it a chance in this very competitive world.
Energy will be key to our future, and Northern has programs in diesel, biodiesel and wind energy that will provide employment for our residents and opportunities to area farmers.
There are offerings in law enforcement education. With the Hi-Line in mind, Northern has added a program in tribal law enforcement.
Limbaugh assured the audience that Northern has the support of Helena and Bozeman in its effort to increase enrollment. That was reassuring to people who have felt that over the decades, we were the lonely stepchild on the northern plains.
That will be brought to a test in the coming months when the state Legislature debates funding for Northern operations and infrastructure. Certain factions of the Legislature have made it clear that they oppose efforts to sustain current funding levels without raising tuition.
Limbaugh reminded us of what the college means to the community. We will have to rally our forces to fight the good fight for Northern.