Havre Daily News
Montana State University President Geoffrey Gamble met with the public at MSU-Northern on Monday and answered some questions from the audience about Northern's future.
He also alerted Northern staff to something he said should be troubling: North Dakota is making a concerted effort to recruit Montana students.
"I'm very concerned for the Hi-Line and eastern Montana," he said. Last year Northern had to scale back its recruiting efforts because of a shortage of funds. It saw a drop in enrollment this year.
"You absolutely have to invest in yourself," Gambel said.
On the other hand, he said, Northern should be proud of having a much higher percentage of Native Americans on campus than is found in the state as a whole - 19 percent, compared with 3 percent.
"This is a comfortable campus for the Indian students and we ought to take advantage of that" for both their sake and that of the school, he said.
Northern's faculty came to Monday's forum equipped with a list of questions. They were particularly worried about competition between MSU-College of Technology in Great Falls and Northern's branch in Great Falls.
"Since reorganization, we haven't looked at the mutual relationships" between campuses, Gamble said. He said the questions from Northern faculty pointed to the fact that he should encourage more intercampus dialogue.
One education instructor asked whether MSU-College of Technology in Great Falls should be able to hire instructors, short term, to teach lower- division education classes when Northern has full-time faculty available for teaching those courses.
Several other instructors chimed in on the issue.
The practice, said Darlene Sellers, associate professor of education, could be bad for students and bad for Northern's accreditation in two years. When adjunct faculty teach the course, they sometimes have to change the curriculum because they don't have the right skills, she said.
College of Technology education students often go on to finish their degree at Northern and their lower-division coursework would be taken into account during the accreditation process, she said.
Gamble said Great Falls was free to hire adjunct faculty to teach those courses because of an agreement in place since the university system was reorganized about a decade ago.
Faculty were also concerned that the College of Technology is planning to start offering upper division courses, overlapping with Northern.
Gamble said that kind of change would have to be cleared through his office and he has not seen any such request.
He talked about general trends in Montana and the country in funding education.
School funding in Montana reflects a national trend, he said. Where public education was once seen as a public good and publicly funded, it's now seen as a "private good" and students are being asked to pay more and more for it.
Gamble said he has heard legislators speak more optimistically about the state's higher education and he said he hopes they will follow that up with more funding.