By Ellen Thompson/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Montana State University-Northern has decided not to allow new enrollment in seven programs that administrators say need to be evaluated.
Students already enrolled in the seven will be able to continue and graduate in those programs.
Only a few of the programs are likely to emerge from the process completely intact, Provost Cheri Jimeno said Tuesday. Most will be absorbed into other majors, she said.
Each of the seven programs chosen has had fewer than seven graduates annually for five or more years, she said.
"Many institutions are very careful about carrying a program with a very low number of graduates in that program," Jimeno said.
She said the move is a positive one, which will allow the university to assign more faculty and resources to programs that benefit more students.
She said no faculty will be laid off as a result. "We're not putting programs into moratorium to eliminate faculty," she said.
The programs are: master's in general science; bachelor's in communications, major and minor; bachelor's in water quality technology; bachelor's in civil engineering technology; bachelor's in business education, major and minor; auto body minor within auto tech; and secondary education minor in computer information systems.
The idea is to "consolidate them and bring them back," Chancellor Alex Capdeville said today.
Jimeno acknowledged that the move is not popular among the affected departments.
English professor Bill Thackeray, whose department won't be directly affected, said he's skeptical that faculty won't be laid off.
"Teach other things? That's hogwash baloney. What are they going to teach?" he asked.
Capdeville said the decision to put programs on hold stems from budget problems and is also the result of yearly program reviews mandated by the Board of Regents.
Northern administrators learned in November that enrollment is down at the university by 108 students and projected enrollment is even lower - 134 fewer students for next school year. The effect on the 2005-2006 academic year budget could be a loss of $630,000 unless Northern gets help from the Legislature or from Montana State University-Bozeman. Capdeville has been in talks with Bozeman to have some of that university's funds shifted to the Northern campus.
This academic year, Northern's total budget for operations is $26.7 million, Vice Chancellor Chuck Jensen said. The official student population used for preparing the budget is 1,306, including students in the Great Falls and Lewistown locations.
In 2000, when the university was facing a budget shortfall, the Board of Regents told Northern to eliminate 16 programs.
Jimeno said the decision to evaluate programs this year did not come from the Regents.
Jimeno wrote in a memo to faculty reviewing the fall semester: "We are quietly moving some low-enrolled programs into moratorium effective immediately. Program moratorium isn't the same as program deletion. What moratorium does mean, however, is that the program needs significant change, a change of venue, or yes, maybe eventually deletion. Please remember that big public displays of program deletion (or sometimes moratorium) hurt all recruitment efforts and may lead to a decrease in enrollment in all programs."
In an interview Tuesday, Jimeno explained the use of the word "quietly."
"What we absolutely do not want is for the general public to think that we're going in and deleting a lot of programs," she said. "What you don't want to do is in any way harm the enrollment of the institution. What we want to be able to do is to just be able to take these programs that we have known for a long time have not had enrollment and take another look at them."
Some newer programs that graduate few students were not put on hold, including the bachelor's in graphic design created in 2001, because they need time to attract more students, Jimeno said.
Thackeray said he disagrees with the Board of Regents' policy of looking at the number of students graduating in a program, rather than the number of students enrolled in the program's classes.
Programs were put on hold for several reasons. A moratorium was put on the water quality technology, the secondary education computer information systems minor, and the general science master's as a result of program review, Jimeno said.
The secondary education minor in computer information systems was just not popular, she said, and that demand for the business education degree is low.
The master's in general science also is being re-evaluated statewide, Jimeno said.
Monty Harrison drives 123 miles from Kevin, three days a week, for the business education program. He has gone back to school this year at age 50 in order to get certified in business education. His goal is to be teaching by 2007, he said.
"I hate to see anything taken out," Harrison said. "I think you lose a lot when they start dropping courses, but if there's not the students in it, I don't know what actions they can take."
Teacher union representative Roger Stone said he sees the positive side of the university's decision.
"That allows us to focus on things that are not undersubscribed," he said. "It also gives us time to analyze it. How do we approach it?"
Stone teaches computer information system classes, one program affected by the moratoriums. He said he doesn't think he'll see any dramatic changes in his program because of the moratorium. The changes that do come, he said, are inevitable.
"When we created that (minor), it was well-enrolled," he said. "At that time (the Office of Public Instruction) had some regulations on who had to have that degree. The requirements have changed for people who have to have that credential."
Stone said he's happy with the job placements that have come from the degree, but the requirements are changing, and the programs should change to.
Stone has seen negative responses from the faculty as well. He described opinion as "all over the map."
He's advocating a more moderate approach: See it as "just a little breather there, to step back and say, 'What are we going to do here?'" he said. "I think that's OK."
Thackeray said he is worried that the university is systematically losing its nontechnology classes. The loss of the communications major particularly surprised him.
"In our age, we don't need communication? Give me a break here," he said.
Jimeno said that many of those courses might be blended into Thackeray's department, English, but he is not so sure.
"That's not convincing to me," he said. "This is a step to get rid of English."
Thackeray said that since 1994, when Northern became part of Montana State University, MSU-Bozeman has been trying to rid the smaller schools of classes that compete with Bozeman.
"The MSU system is eating its children," he said.
Capdeville said the idea of consolidating some programs and eliminating others is not coming from Bozeman.