By HDN Staff
The approval of university recommendations for program review at Montana State University-Northern may be a good short-term financial fix, but the long-range implications may not be so good.
The recommendations for elimination or alteration of some 20 programs that failed to meet graduation requirements include cutting the heart out of a traditional arts and sciences program. English, history, mathematics, biology and chemistry are gone.
On one hand, it is hard to imagine how cutting programs out will attract more students. It won't do more in the short run than remove whatever students are in the programs.
In the first recommendation for review, many of the programs for the arts and sciences were recommended for retention. The recommendation for many said they are low-cost programs, since the classes are also taught for other areas; that they are needed for teacher certification; that they are central to the mission of the university.
After review, the faculty who wrote the recommendations were told that their reasons weren't legitimate enough, and programs still had to be cut.
Classes from the programs cut will still be taught, which questions how much the cuts will actually save. Biology and chemistry classes are needed for the nursing degree, and will still be taught for that and in the general science program even with the cuts. The history classes will still be taught in the broadfield social science program. But the programs themselves are gone.
How seriously can a student take a nursing program that doesn't have biology, chemistry and math departments to support it? How seriously can a student take a secondary education in English major without an English program?
How seriously will prospective teachers take a university without these programs? Will the university be able to keep professors it has, or attract and retain new ones?
The credibility of MSU-Northern is at stake here. Concentrating on successful programs like the ag mech tech department, nursing, business and education might help in the short run, saving a few dollars and attracting some new students, but cutting out the other departments is likely to damage them too, in the long run.
Perhaps the productivity review has the wrong focus. Maybe if a program helps other programs at the university, it is productive. Maybe if it helps the credibility of the university as a whole, it's productive.
Maybe if it educates some students, and helps them get better jobs and become better people, it's productive.