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2-year degree initiative may affect Northern

Montana State University-Northern offers some of the state's best two-year degrees, and the Board of Regents want to help prospective students realize that with a new initiative, College Now.

According to Northern's Chancellor James Limbaugh at last week's University Advisory Committee meeting, College Now is an effort by regents to clarify the state's two-year offerings, with some reorganization, by fall 2013.

The regents hope that more, easier to understand, information will increase enrollment in these programs by eliminating some prospective students' confusion.

The two schools that would be most affected by the program, according to Limbaugh and Greg Kegel, dean of Northern's College of Technical Sciences who sits on the College Now committee with Limbaugh, are Northern and University of Montana-Western in Dillon.

At Northern, the program could mean the splitting of the University into a four-year institution, likely to keep the MSU-Northern name, and a separate two-year institution that would have a different name — "Hi-Line College" has been thrown around unofficially — but reside in the same buildings, taught by the same teachers and managed by the same administration.

Students will be able to enroll in the two-year programs and then transfer to Northern, or any other four-year school in Montana, to finish a four-year degree, taking their credits with them.

Limbaugh said he is not familiar with the particulars of the plan.

There will, however, be a public hearing with the Deputy Commissioner for Two-Year and Community College Education John Cech on March 21, where he will try to answer the questions of students, staff, faculty and community members about what this will ultimately mean for Northern's future.


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