Despite the unseasonably beautiful weather, this last week of October will be difficult. The college administration has shared with many constituent groups the challenge the college faces in crafting a balanced budget for the 2015-2016 academic year. October 31 is the first deadline that must be met in taking steps to assure that Northland remains fiscally healthy and able to serve the communities of northwest Minnesota and northeast North Dakota.
To quickly reiterate: Northland must reduce its budget by $1.1-$1.6 million. This deficit is due to four factors: reduced state allocation, frozen tuition, inflation and compensation increases, and reduced enrollment. Although we anticipate that the legislature will favorably consider MnSCU’s proposal for increases to the allocation, we do not believe that the legislature will allow public colleges to raise tuition. Inflation dictates increases in expenditures. Finally, Northland is actively working to increase enrollment despite the robust regional economy that provides ample employment opportunities.
As we approach decisions, we are adhering to four principles:
- Focus on programs and services that link the college and the region to the future.
- Our finances don’t allow the college to retain all existing programs and add new programs that meet emerging community needs.
- We need programs that attract investment; tuition alone will not support high tech innovation.
- Grants, partnerships with business & industry, and philanthropy are essential to the future of the college.
We all need to remember that Northland is a phenomenal asset to the region – we are a POWERFUL partner in our communities. And, we are committed to retaining this position of strength. It is time to clearly emphasize our strengths:
- Aerospace: We have had an eight-year arc of change within this area. In 2007, we nearly closed the program because of lack of enrollment. Then, reinvestments were made and growth occurred. In 2010 and 2011, a total of nearly $10 million in grants were received allowing the development of new programs. These developments have transformed the college technologically and have attracted industry partners and bonding funds to construct a new building. With the strong regional commitment to developing the unmanned aerial systems industry and to the emergence of autonomous technology in agriculture, Northland will propel students into high wage career positions in UAS, Big Data, and Precision Agriculture.
- Agriculture: There is a revolution occurring in agriculture. We are working to diversify our focus from only Farm Business Management to high tech developments in precision agriculture, high school/college/university articulations in general agriculture, agri-business, and agricultural education. We are in the right place at the right time. We have the talent to go in these directions and we have the unique assets of the UAS, Imagery Analysis, and Geospatial Intelligence programs to support them.
- Health Care: We are the premier provider of education for health professions in our area. Hundreds of our graduates staff regional hospitals, clinics, and care facilities. The enrollment in these programs will remain strong because degrees and certificates are required for employment, demand for employees will continue to be high, and wages are attractive.
- Trades and Mechanics: Northland has strong trades and mechanics programs. However, we have continued to offer our programs in traditional academic patterns – day-time from August to May. We may able to leverage our programmatic strengths by diversifying the length of programs and the schedules at which they are offered. Greater flexibility may serve the needs of more potential students and employers.
- Liberal Arts – Transfer: The Liberal Arts offerings at both campuses provide the foundation for transfer. We need to remember to emphasize that we provide the first two years of a university degree – and we have many universities to which our students transfer successfully. Additionally, the liberal arts can be the foundation for career programs in business, management, and human services. The Academic Master Planning process should reveal options for the college to develop in the future.
So, with all of this positive reflection, why have I said that this last week of October will be difficult?
The first deadline we reach for making decisions that will affect our academic mix and our budget is October 31. The Minnesota State College Faculty (MSCF) contract requires that any faculty who might be affected by a lay-off be notified by this date. This gives affected faculty members seven months to consider other options.
Based on several years of program review, several lay-off notices will be issued this week. The reviews have been based on metrics related to enrollment, student success, student-faculty ratios, and cost of the program relative to tuition revenues. Programs where notices will be given have been in a “sustainability” process for several years.
Lay-off notices at this time do not automatically mean that the programs will no longer be offered. The college is committed to working with individual faculty members and the faculty association to ascertain if there are changes to programs that would make them more successful and/or reduce program deficits.
October 31 is the first milepost on the decision-journey toward a balanced budget. From November to May, the following activities will be occurring:
- The Academic Master Plan will be completed and will form the basis for program decisions, academic additions, and grant-seeking in the future. The AMP will identify what are the strongest and/or most unique opportunities, what are the unique characteristics of each campus, and what program mix best meets the needs of our communities.
- We will continue to work to restructure our agricultural offerings so that they have broader reach and attract a broader audience of learners. Through this work and our association with AgCentric – the Northland Center of Excellence, we will respond to the evolution in agricultural technology and tie agriculture in with other college areas of expertise. And, we will respond to the growing shortage of agricultural educators through articulations with university partners.
- We will work with our faculty to hold on to existing programs – even those with challenges – through considering options for program length, methods of delivery, and alternate schedules.
- We will work to develop greater connections to business and industry through advisory groups and customized training.
- We will consider all other aspects of college performance, organization, and staffing. Greater efficiencies will be employed wherever possible.
We will be connecting with community advisory groups, media, and internal audiences to assure that accurate information about decisions and future activities are shared.
I hope you will have a good week!
Upcoming College Events
Monday, October 27, 2014
· 5:30 PM – EGF Campus Wide Advisory Meeting – Commons
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
11:00 am – Why Treaties Matter : Guest Speaker – Dr. Jack Haymond – EGF Rm 250
· 9:00 PM – Halloween Rock ‘n Bowl – TRF Family Bowl
Thursday, October 30, 2014
· 10:00 am – Prevention of Domestic and Sexual Violence: The Role of Community and Culture – TRF Commons
· 10:00 am – Why Treaties Matter Exhibit – TRF Art Gallery
· 7:00 PM – Movie Night — The Purge: Anarchy – TRF Campus Theater
Friday, October 31, 2014
· 5:00 pm – Volleyball @ Regional Tournament
Saturday, November 1, 2014
· TBD – Men’s Basketball @ Dakota College at Bottineau Tournament vs Candadien Mennonite
· 9:00 am – Wrestling @ Yellowjacket Open
Sunday, November 2, 2014
· TBD – Men’s Basketball @ Dakota College at Bottineau Tournament vs University of Winnipeg
Monday, November 3, 2014
· 12:30 pm – Mayville State University Transfer Visit – TRF Theater Commons
· 12:00 pm – Why Treaties Matter : Guest Speaker – Dr. Jack Haymond – TRF Theater
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
· 11:00 am – 2:00 pm – “Charting the Future” Gallery Walk – EGF Campus
Wednesday, November 5, 2014
· 12:00 pm – Why Treaties Matter : Guest Speaker Jim Jones – TRF Theater
· 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm – “Charting the Future” Gallery Walk – TRF Campus
Thursday, November 6, 2014
· 6:00 PM – Choral Works Concert – TRF Theater
Saturday, November 8, 2014
· 10:00 am – Wrestling @ Bison Open
· 12:00 pm – Women’s Basketball vs. Alumni Scrimmage – TRF Gym
My Schedule this Week
Monday, Oct. 27 – TRF – Community Advisory Committee, NCTC Foundation Annual Meeting
Tuesday, Oct. 28 – TRF – Exec Committee, Donor Recognition, SGC Small Group meeting
Wendesday, Oct. 29 – EGF – North Valley Career Expo, Valley Prosperity Partnership Meeting
Thursday, Oct. 30 – EGF
Friday, Oct. 31 – EGF – Northland Aerospace Foundation Board meeting