The lights are on at Montana State University-Northern, and it is open for business and moving forward.
Last September, MSU-Northern began a vitally important process for its future, a process that any well-run business does on a regular basis: It examined all of its programs, top to bottom, to determine which were performing well and which were not.
This process, known more technically as “program prioritization” was initiated and led by MSU-Northern Chancellor Jim Limbaugh on his own initiative. Over months, Northern’s own faculty combed through the university’s programs for strengths and weaknesses. They issued their findings earlier this year, which Chancellor Limbaugh used to make determinations about which programs would grow, be maintained, or be eliminated.
The review was very forward thinking, for during the 2013 Legislature, the Montana University System heard loud and clear from legislators that they wanted to see more accountability in the system, particularly in the areas of retention — the number of students who continue one year to the next – and in completion, the number of students who graduate.
It takes guts to go through this kind of review. It leads to difficult decisions, like closing some low-producing programs. But when some programs are graduating seven or fewer students per year — or, in some cases, fewer than three per year — it’s time to make some responsible changes as stewards of student tuition and Montana taxpayer dollars.
Northern’s program prioritization is smart, efficient and effective — a true model for how a university makes sometimes difficult decisions to serve the greater good for its students and region. Through this process Northern is going to become stronger. Like a smartly-run business it will grow those programs that are most in demand by students and close those that are not.
The lights are on at Northern, and they show a bright future.
Montana Commissioner of Higher Education
Montana State University