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University Of Montana Officials Review Proposed Cuts, Restructuring

The University of Montana campus.
Josh Burnham
Montana Public Radio
The University of Montana.

The University of Montana is taking a hard look at its priorities. University of Montana officials met Friday to take a hard look at the recommendations from a task force reviewing those budgeting and enrollment priorities.

The University of Montana’s funding is tied to enrollment, and declining enrollment has proven to be a significant financial challenge over the last several years. The school is now reevaluating its academic and administrative priorities.

Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Beverly Edmond says it’s been a difficult, but long overdue process.

"We need to move as quickly as possible such that we are putting our resources in the programs and services we want to sustain, and taking appropriate actions to strengthen, invest in and modify and maybe discontinue other areas. Time is of the essence," she says.

Among Edmond’s many recommendations presented today is restructuring or realigning UM’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the Masters of Public Administration.

The task force in charge of making draft priority recommendations, listed several biology programs for growth.

"One of the recommendations I make is to broaden this to develop a strategy for investment in the biological sciences across the university," Edmond said.

UM Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs, Tom Crady, today made an argument for devoting more resources to tuition waivers.

"There’s no question that if we were to cut our waivers budget, we would lose our students of color, we would lose out first generation students and then we would start to lose mostly Montana students at this point. From my point of view, it’s a very, very important thing to do," Crady says.

UM President Sheila Stearns will issue preliminary decisions on December 11. Additional meetings will be held immediately following that, with final decisions to be determined by December 15.

UM’s new incoming president, Seth Bodnar, is expected to arrive in Missoula January second. Stearns says Bodnar will "shadow" her for the first week of January, before officially assuming his duties the following week.

During that time, Stearns expects UM will publicly release broad-stroke details of UM’s 2019 budget forecast.

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