Montana State University-Northern’s Interim Chancellor Joe Callahan is back in Havre this week after representing Northern at the Montana Board of Regents meeting in Billings late last week. He said he was pleased with the outcome.
Callahan was most pleased with the regents’ choice to provide a raise to the staff and faculty of colleges across Montana. The 1 percent raise, with a $500 bonus, is meant to strike a balance between the frozen wages all other state employees have received this year and raising wages, which some faculty and administrators have said is necessary to recruit quality educators.
“I think that regents were courageous in addressing the needs for human resource investment and therefore provided for a modest increase in salaries for employees, ” Callahan said, “because we’ve had difficulty recruiting and hiring our faculty and staff with our wage. ”
While a few administrative and staff wages were raised at the meeting, Northern’s faculty will not receive the raise quite yet, until the Northern Federation of Teachers signs off on the agreement. The Northern union is one of five out of 25 yet to approve the agreement. The wage increases are set to take effect on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Other changes to the Montana University System’s finances were increases to individual schools’ budgets almost across the board, with a few exceptions.
Northern’s budget for the next year is actually about $25,000 less than 2011’s actual expenditures, one of the only drops in the system, with Miles Community College. This includes this year’s 5-percent tuition bump.
Callahan said the budget is balanced, with no loss from Northern.
Northern will still spend more per student than any other school in the Montana University System except the main MSU campus in Bozeman.
It’s not just budgets that are down. While official enrollment numbers are not to be officially released until later this week, Callahan said Monday that enrollment at Northern is down about 1 percent.
“Many factors, including a stronger economy in northeast Montana and western North Dakota, are pulling potential college students toward employment and postponing college enrollment, ” Callahan said in a release this morning. “I am confident we can address any enrollment decrease within our budget plans and identify ways to increase enrollment for the Spring of 2012 and the Fall of 2012. ”
Callahan also presented to the regents last week an update on Northern’s biofuels program, particularly a renovation project for the school’s Auto-Diagnostics Building to expand the biofuels program. Bids for the project came in above budget, so the school changed the project and is now putting out another round of bids.