BEMIDJI, Minn. (January 20, 2011) — Dr. Richard Hanson, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, today announced his plan to meet an anticipated $5 million budget shortfall for the institutions over the next two years.
The plan is directly attributable to economic challenges faced by the state of Minnesota, which is addressing an anticipated a $6.2 billion budget deficit during its fiscal year 2012-2013 budget biennium. The issues faced at BSU and NTC are not unique to the two institutions; similar budget restructuring and reductions are occurring system-wide in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
Hanson’s recalibration plan for the institutions focuses on three core goals:
• Reduce and reshape existing programs
• Focus on emerging programs
• Implement an institutional distinctiveness agenda
“The context of the state’s budget deficit represents both a tremendous resource challenge and extraordinary opportunity for the University and the College,” Hanson said. “The recalibration plan allows both institutions to sharpen their focus, continue to meet the learning needs of our students and to more clearly articulate an educational environment marked by sustainability, innovation and distinction.
“This plan is intensely focused on our students and their learning,” Hanson said. “We are committed to providing our students with efficient, timely and cost-effective programming and support.”
How were these decisions made?
The decisions made under the recalibration plan that were necessary in order for the University and College to their needed financial goals were based on a series of operationalizing criteria for each program area on campus — objective data, financial sustainability, innovativeness and distinctiveness. The decision-making process also included an understanding of the role and position of higher education in the state of Minnesota, the financial and political elements at play in the state’s current economic situation and the University’s best estimate on the direction and intent of higher education in the northwest Minnesota region.
Key to the President’s recalibration plan was a philosophy of avoiding across-the-board cuts. The plan intends to shape and sculpt the University and College to better position them for the future challenges of higher education.
Teach-out opportunities for students in affected programs
Students currently enrolled in programs targeted for elimination will have the opportunity to complete their degrees. This teach-out program specifically targets junior- and senior-level students at Bemidji State University and first- and second-year learners at Northwest Technical College. University administration anticipates the possibility of a short-term enrollment drop and has reserve funds identified to help offset that potential funding reduction. Additionally, spring enrollment and projected fall enrollment numbers remain high, and Bemidji State’s Office of Admissions reports applications are up over the same time a year ago.
Reduce and reshape existing programs
The recalibration plan for Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College calls for the elimination of four academic programs, reductions in an additional 18 academic programs, eliminating administrative and non-academic positions, eliminating two varsity intercollegiate sports and integrating some student service offices across the two institutions.
Program reductions and eliminations will impact approximately 50 positions. Academic program eliminations will affect about six positions; program reductions will impact about 33 additional positions. At least 10.38 administrative and non-academic positions will be eliminated. Varsity sport elimination will affect two coaches, and additional positions could be impacted when student services are integrated.
Academic programs to be eliminated under the plan are:
• art history; environmental landscaping; massage therapy and one additional program to be confirmed at a later date.
Academic programs to be reduced under the plan are:
• visual arts; English and speech; history; philosophy; modern languages; music; physics; environmental studies; economics; mathematics; computer science; psychology; sociology; accounting; technological studies; physical education, health and sport; professional education and automotive.
Administrative positions to be reduced include:
• library technology; communications and marketing; trades; physical plant; telecommunications; clerical; counseling and Optivation.
Men’s indoor track and field and men’s outdoor track and field will be eliminated. The reduction will leave Bemidji State University sponsoring 15 varsity intercollegiate sports, with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey and 13 NCAA Division II sports. Bemidji State is a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in both men’s and women’s hockey and of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in each of its Division II programs. Eliminating men’s indoor and outdoor track and field will not affect the University’s membership in the NSIC.
The recalibration plan allows the Department of Athletics to reduce its scope and improve opportunities for women in athletics.
Additionally, the Center for Extended Learning will be integrated into the staff of the Records and Admissions offices.
Additional reductions or eliminations could be announced in the future.
Focus on emerging programs
The recalibration plan calls for the addition of a new position to help the University and College build strategic partnerships, add three academic positions in areas of projected strength and potential growth, strengthen Indian studies and Ojibwe language offerings to build a nationally-distinctive program, recommend a coordinated curricular infusion centered on the topics of leadership, ethics, informatics and environmental sustainability, and reinforce the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programming through increased grant and scholarly activity and outreach programs. The University and College will also renew their commitment to serve under-represented student populations, including first-generation college students, students from moderate-income backgrounds and students from the neighboring Indian tribes.
Under the plan to focus on emerging programs, two positions will be added to business and one position will be added in mass communication. An assistant vice president for strategic partnerships and information services will also be created.
Implement an institutional distinctiveness agenda
Hanson’s institutional distinctiveness agenda focuses on increasing retention and undertaking efforts to reduce student debt load. The distinctiveness agenda calls for increasing student completion rates by 20 percent, creating three-year baccalaureate programs with a plan to launch a test program in the fall of 2011, and taking steps to pursue a 25-percent reduction in student loan dependency.
The agenda will also seek to create a forward-looking sense of societal relevance in terms of employability, competence and motivation among current and future students.