By Tim Leeds
The Montana Board of Regents of Higher Education approved some new program offerings at Montana State University-Northern during their November meeting.
"We think (this is a move in the right direction)," said Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Crofts. "Make the university more up-to-date, more marketable. It's an ongoing process of re-forming and restructuring the curriculum that we like to see happen."
Alex Capdeville, chancellor of Northern, said he thinks this could help with enrollment at the college which has been steady or declining over the last several years. Crofts said he thinks the new programs have a possibility of helping enrollment.
"None of these is single-handedly going to help enrollment," he added.
The regents approved the addition of a bachelor of science degree in industrial education with a teaching option, an associate of applied science degree in computer engineering technology and an associate of applied science degree in school business administration at Northern.
Capdeville said the industrial arts degree is an especially good move for Northern. He said it is similar program to one the institution used to offer in the past.
"It was a very successful program here at Northern when we had it," he said.
He said there is also a strong need for industrial technology teachers in Montana high schools, so the market for graduates of the program already exists. He said this gives Northern another opportunity to serve in education, providing both training for prospective teachers and filling the need for industrial tech teachers for the Montana schools.
"There's a real need for that here," he said. "It's a matter of focusing in on (those kinds of needs and opportunities.)"
He said the new computer technology degree is also an adjustment to meet modern needs, by focusing in on modern computer technology.
Crofts said the new programs are completely consistent with the mission and campus of Northern.
Capdeville said they are also working on several other new programs, some of which have been approved by the regents on the first reading and will be considered during their January meeting, some of which are in initial planning stages.
Some of these new programs include expanding, or creation of, nursing programs in Great Falls, Lewistown and Browning; expanding the education programs in Great Falls and at tribal colleges, setting up a master's cohort group in Helena, and having a water quality program in conjunction with the Helena College of Technology.
Capdeville said he has asked the faculty to look at other areas for possible addition of or alteration of programs, especially in areas where there are already faculty and programs or classes in place. He said some areas he is interested in considering new programs, but he's not sure the university is in a position to move on them yet.
"I don't know if we're at that area yet," he said. "We have to stabilize enrollment. Our desire is to grow. We have to have adequate students to do that."
One area Capdeville said he is interested in strengthening is the water quality program, which he said has a very strong potential with good job opportunities for its graduates, and is quite unique to the area.
Another area he said he would be interested in revisiting in the future would be technology programs such as woods, metals and manufacturing technologies. He said the new industrial technology program will require support in those areas anyway.
Capdeville said he is also open to revisiting areas in the arts and sciences that were cut or altered sometime in the future, once the enrollment decline is reversed.
Crofts said he doesn't think reviving those programs would be a good idea.
"I would hope they wouldn't do that," he said. "It seems to us those programs had reached a point of diminishing returns. I think they're so much better off than trying to revive those programs with virtually no students in them."