By Martin J. Kidston
Montana State University-Northern Chancellor Mike Rao called a campus visit by the Commissioner of Higher Education last week beneficial to the university.
Commissioner Crofts and two of his senior staff members, Associate Commissioner Rod Sundsted and Deputy Commissioner Joyce Scott, toured the campus on Monday to touch base with the schools needs. Between meetings the trio visited with staff and students.
Rao said he was pleased with the commissioners day-long visit, during which some of the schools needs were placed on the table.
He knows there are issues regarding our facultys salaries, which is approximately 13 percent lower than their peers, Rao said. I think the commissioner is also aware of the difficulties our enrollment faces in Great Falls and he may help us there.
Rao said Great Falls is within MSU-Northerns educational region, and the school is eager to assess the needs of the Great Falls community. In order to meet those needs, Northern plans on offering an alternative schedule of courses in Great Falls for a bachelors degree in elementary education. The school also is offering a bachelors degree in Computer Information Systems with courses on the weekend to accommodate the working adult in Great Falls.
Well really try to make our presence better known in Great Falls and try to assess the needs there, Rao said. Its the largest population center within our region and were very interested in what that communitys greatest needs are.
Rao called the commissioner a good listener and believes he will process the issues for some time after his return to Helena. Rao also said the commissioner will be returning to Northern again in the spring to go over the funding allocation model.
Rao explained the funding allocation model as money given to the State University System by the Legislature. The amount varies and is then divided between each campus within the state.
Theres a model thats used to do that, Rao said. Thats the funding allocation model.
Rao said the commissioner works with the Board of Regents to make sure the budget is allocated fairly to each campus in the state. The funding allocation model strives to do that, incorporating such things as institutional-support positions, facility costs and the number of full-time students.
The funding model aside, Rao said, the commissioner is supportive of the schools progress and long-term goals.