Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Rolph Groseth, interim chancellor at Montana State University-Northern, said Thursday the university is continuing to take steps to establish goals, identify its role in the Montana University System and in its service area, and to stabilize enrollment. Groseth said he has felt welcomed and has received much help in his duties since he took over the helm of Northern in January. “This is a community and region that supports its university system,” Groseth said during his welcome and report to the Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education, which is holding its May meeting in Havre Thursday and today. Groseth took over after Chancellor Alex Capdeville, who took his position in the fall of 2000, announced his retirement effective the end of December. Groseth, a long-time administrator at Montana State University-Bozeman, was appointed by Montana State University President Geoff Gamble and assigned the task of identifying what Northern’s role and position as a regional university should be and how to best marshal the university’s resources in filling that role. Gamble said he will institute a search for a permanent chancellor once Groseth has set the stage to attract the best possible candidates to oversee Northern’s operations. Groseth took over after several years of declining enrollment and budget problems at the Havre university. Regent Stephen Barrett complimented Groseth on the work he has done in the last five months. “You were handed a very thorny problem and it hasn’t been solved but you have taken tremendous steps,” he said after Groseth made a report on Northern’s work to reverse some negative balances in its budget. In his initial report Thursday morning, Groseth listed four goals of the university and the steps it has taken to achieve them. One theme in the goals is to stop a decline in enrollment. Northern had the largest drop in enrollment in the Montana University System last fall, going from 1,388 in the fall of 2006 to 1,215 in the fall of 2007 and has seen declines since 2002, when it had 1,531. Groseth said there are several problems in enrollment, including a decline in the number of students graduating in Montana most units of the Montana University system saw a drop in students last fall that is even worse in north-central Montana. Northern’s primary service area is 14 counties in north-central Montana, Groseth said, an area that does not field a large number of college students. “(It) is an enormous physical space, an enormous physical space in which the population density is low and getting even lower,” he said. “And yet, Northern is seen as this area’s university campus.” One of the university’s goals is to strengthen that tie, including trying to get more stuDents to attend college, he said. The counties Northern primarily serves have a much lower-than-average percent of their population going to postsecondary education, Groseth said. “We need to improve that,” he said. Groseth said Northern’s primary programs already serve the major needs of the area. He listed agriculture, education, health care, small business and transportation as the major industries. Some of Northern’s strongest programs, such as nursing, teacher education, business technology, automotive and diesel, tie directly into those industries, and he said the university will continue to recruit students into those programs, both providing education for local students and supplying a workforce for the area. He said the university is also trying to strengthen existing ties to other markets and to create new markets. One step is increasing articulation agreements and recruitment from community colleges, tribal colleges and colleges of technology throughout the West. This step could bring students from two-year programs to finish their educations in Northern’s four-year programs. The strategy is extending across international borders, he added. Northern is working on an agreement with the college in Medicine Hat, Alberta, that could bring Canadian students to Havre to study for their bachelor’s degrees. It is also extending across the country Groseth said Northern is working with a college in West Memphis, Ark., to offer the last two years of Northern’s four-year diesel program in West Memphis. “They came to see, if funds were provided, if we are able to provide (the program) on their campus,” he said. He said Northern is also trying to find new markets for existing programs and programs Northern is looking at developing, including degree programs to supply workers for cooperatives. “We’re trying to create new markets where they make sense for us,” he said.