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Pioneer Editorial: BSU. NTC undergo a makeover

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Faced with a $5 million budget shortfall, as Bemidji State's and Northwest Tech's part of a $6.2 billion state budget gap, BSU President Richard Hanson laid down some "tough love" measures Thursday to reach that anticipated goal.

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It's not all easily swallowed by all, nor should it be. His decisions will affect programs that students are taking, and the faculty that instruct them. But, basically, the suggested cuts have been made with the least impact to students in mind and, hopefully, will "sculpt and shape" a better BSU and Northwest Tech in the future, as the new president puts it.

Programs to be gone include art history, environmental landscaping, massage therapy, and one yet to be named. Affected are 18 other programs, serving to spread the pain around to reach the goal.

President Hanson assured the Pioneer Editorial Board that the mission of being a liberal arts school has not changed, just that the programs need to be sculpted to fit the demands of today's job markets. There are few jobs available in art history, for example, and BSU needs to offer relevant programs while still being flexible in the liberal arts.

We do, however, want to be cautious in our support, hoping that the changes do not affect student enrollment or impact tuition and fees.

Athletics is not without impact, with President Hanson putting men's indoor and outdoor track and field on the chopping block. We understand the frustration of student athletes and alumni, but we ask where better? Basketball? Football?

It should also be noted that university officials assured the Editorial Board that men's and women's Divison I hockey, now played in The Sanford Center, is not drawing from other athletic or academic programs. Since moving to The Sanford Center, the program is now self-sustaining in the black - barely -- but in the black.

President Hanson also encouraged the Editorial Board with discussion of expanded programs. Most interesting is a proposal to expand the American Indian Resource Center into the premier location of Ojibwe language, giving help to Professor Anton Treuer.

Also intriguing is a proposal for a three-year baccalaureate pilot program, an idea that has many positive aspects. President Hanson would also stress the importance of STEM -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- programming at the two institutions and its relevance in today's workforce and in scholarly activity.

Change is always tough to accept, but it is clear that the Legislature plans to cut higher education as part of its budget-balancing actions. BSU and NTC must keep up its enrollment by offering relevant and sustainable programming.

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