Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns and others with her had complimentary comments during a meeting with faculty, students and staff during a meeting at Montana State University-Northern Friday. Stearns told the group that many of the improvements in recent years at Northern have happened because of the university’s initiative. “I wish more legislators could see what you are doing,” she said. Stearns and Roger Barber, deputy commissioner; Lynn Hamilton, chair of the Board of Regents; and Kerra Melvin, student regent who attends Montana Tech of the University of Montana in Butte, were in Great Falls Thursday and Havre Friday to gather comments about what the Board of Regent s and the Of f ice of the Commissioner of Higher Education should focus on in their strategic planning on what the university system should do to become more competitive and to help the state’s economy. Stearns’ comment was in response to a comment from Kevin Johnson, who teaches in the College of Technical Sciences at Northern. Johnson said students and prospective employers have been very pleased with the equipment and facilities Northern uses to train students in the college. Stearns said Northern has some funding coming for specific programs as part of the university system’s investment for improving the workforce coming out of the universities. Northern will Receive funding to pay for purchase of laboratory equipment and classroom technology for the fields of healthcare, automotive technology and the programs for electrical, plumbing and carpentry technology, she said. The checks haven’t even been cut yet, but they are coming soon, Stearns said. “You’ll see some real differences in how you can serve your students in those areas,” she said. She said Northern’s efforts on its own Northern was the driving force for the state-of-the-art Applied Technology Center recently constructed on campus, and worked with local plumbers to create a program that qualifies for two of the five years required by the state for a plumber’s apprenticeship, for example helped the university receive that funding. “This was a very competitive process,” she said. “There are still campuses whining or complaining to us that we favored some campuses.” Stearns also complimented Chancellor Alex Capdeville on improvements to the campus since he took over in 2000. There has been a change in the campus, improvements made and investments in the infrastructure, to make it a very competitive campus, she said. “A lot has been done, a lot still needs to be done,” Stearns said. In response to a comment from Northern student Will Taylor, Barber said much still needs to be done to improve transfer of credits within the university system, but the problem may not be as extensive as it appears. Taylor said he enrolled at Northern after receiving a twoyear degree from Dawson Community College, but he was going to have to attend Northern another four years to receive his bachelor’s degree. “I’m going to pay for six years” to receive a four-year degree,” Taylor said. Barber said the situation depends on the individual student, but usually students who attend a two-year college then enroll in a four-year institution only take nine more credits than students who only enroll in a four-year program. “Then we hear stories like yours and this is hounding us in the Legislature individual stories come up and they are horrible,” he said. He said the commissioner’s office is also going to work with faculty at the different campuses in the state to try to improve the transferability of credits. Stearns said the university system also has a Web portal that students can use to see what classes will transfer. That can be used in selecting classes, to reduce the work needed at other colleges, she said. The portal is available at www.mus.edu in the academic section of the Web site, she said. “Our goal is to increase (the Web portal on transferability) to another level,” Stearns said in a press conference after the meeting. Registrar and Dean of Students Steven Jamruszka said after the meeting he had arranged a meeting with Taylor to see if anything could be done to improve the student’s situation.