By Alan Sorensen
MSU-Northern Chancellor Mike Rao laid out his 5-year plans for the future of the Havre school at the Havre City Council meeting Monday.
Rao explained that his administration has already accomplished a lot of the short-term goals it set for itself two years ago. Perhaps the most significant of those, the resolution of an uncovered debt of $1.3 million, is nearly taken care of, he said.
Rao was able to diminish the debt by $300,000 in restructuring and another $700,000 to $800,000 with staff reductions. Rao assured the council that, as far as he knows, every employee axed in the cost-cutting move has found another position, either at Northern or elsewhere.
Rao then handed out a master-plan brochure that outlines the academic development overview of MSU-N from 1999 to 2004.
The brochure claimed that a survey of 1997 graduates showed that 92 percent of them were employed at an average annual salary of $30,000. The brochure further claimed that "demand for 1999 MSU-N baccalaureate graduates in engineering, technology and other disciplines exceed the available supply."
Rao's academic master plan identified seven major initiatives in four categories: program and service excellence, enrollment management, regional development and new program development.
Under program and service excellence, Rao has targeted accreditation of Northern's teacher ed programs by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education and improvement of student services.
Under enrollment management, Rao intends to simply the transfer process of tribal and community college students and to articulate program agreements with those schools. He also wants to advance marketing and recruitment at the school.
His regional development plans call for expanded grants and sponsored research at the school and expanding program offerings throughout the region.
Rao told the council that too many people within the state and elsewhere incorrectly believe that Havre and the surrounding area are remote and backwards. Rao said that he and his family have found just the opposite to be true, that Havre is a wonderful place to live and work.
"(Havre) is a great location for Northern," Rao said.
Rao said he also intends to pursue a variety of additional bachelor degree offerings for the school: psychology, environmental health, criminal justice, computer engineering, industrial technology (teaching degree), agribusiness, and history. New master degrees he will seek include a joint adult, community and higher education degree and an adult education and training degree.
Rao would like to increase the number of locations where MSU-Northern nursing and education programs are offered and to establish partnerships with MSU-Bozeman and Billings and Western Montana College of the University of Montana.
Rao said Northern will attempt to help Havre and the surrounding area attract technological and high-tech businesses. To that end, he encourages Havre and the state to look at offering short-term tax breaks to fledgling companies that make an effort to establish themselves in the area.
When no one on the council offered any questions, Rao said that he will welcome any calls and suggestions from the council.