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Richard Hanson, president of Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College, speaks to members of BSU's Student Senate Wednesday afternoon at BSU about programs and staff positions to be eliminated and added at both institutions. Hanson will be speaking to faculty and students again today about a plan to overcome an expected $5 million budget shortfall for the next biennium. Pioneer Photo/Anne Williams

Recalibration at BSU, NTC: Hanson to unveil comprehensive plan to deal with $5 million budget shortfall

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Recalibration at BSU, NTC: Hanson to unveil comprehensive plan to deal with $5 million budget shortfall
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College officials are unveiling today a comprehensive plan to deal with a $5 million budget shortfall for 2011-12 and 2012-13.

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The shortfall is related to the economic challenges Minnesota is facing with its $6.2 billion budget deficit. President Richard Hanson will present the recalibration plan at a series of all-campus meetings throughout today at BSU and NTC.

The recalibration plan involves eliminating four academic programs (about six staff positions), 18 programs (about 33 staff positions), at least 10.38 administrative and non-academic staff positions and two athletic programs (two coaches and 35 athletes). Some student services offices will also be integrated.

A total of nine faculty members at BSU and NTC have qualified for the Board Early Separation Incentive, or BESI, program. Students, specifically BSU juniors and seniors and first- and second-year learners at NTC, currently enrolled in programs being eliminated will be able to complete their programs, also referred to as "teach out."

The recalibration plan also calls for the creation of new programs and positions. Positions will be added to the academic areas of business and mass communications. A new position to help build strategic partnerships will be created. Three new academic positions will be added in other areas, which have not yet been named.

The American Indian studies and Ojibwe language programs at BSU and NTC will be strengthened in an effort to become nationally recognized. Programs in science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM, will be promoted, according to the plan.

In addition, Hanson hopes to raise the student completion rate by a full 20 percent, create three-year baccalaureate programs and reduce the loan dependency of students by 25 percent.

Hanson has been in meetings since Tuesday, speaking with faculty and staff, bargaining units and student leadership groups. Today is the first day he will present the plan publicly.

At a meeting Wednesday afternoon with the BSU Student Senate leadership team, Hanson shared with students the difficulty he said he faced with staff reductions.

"The last two days have been extraordinary in my life," Hanson said at the Student Senate meeting. "I have met personally with every faculty member who is going to lose their job. I would have it no other way."

Hanson went on to say he was met with a "continuum of feelings," ranging from "tears and sadness to anger and frustration."

"But those people deserve to hear it from me," he said. "It's been one week I'll never forget."

Hanson noted that BSU may lose students because of the recalibration plan, but said the university and college has set aside a reserve fund to help it cope with what could be a loss of revenue.

As a future source of revenue, Hanson told student senate members he and his cabinet will be meeting with the BSU Foundation board of directors next week to begin planning a national comprehensive fundraising campaign.

"We've never done it before," he said. "We're going to do it. It's exciting. It's demanding. It's a wonderful opportunity for us."

With regard to wanting to increase the student completion rate by 20 percent, Hanson told members of the BSU Student Senate about his frustrations with the current graduation rate.

"I am not satisfied with our four-year graduation rate," Hanson said. "It's about 49 percent. I'm not proud of that. Of all the students who come here, we finish half of them? What's that about?"

He appeared most excited, however, when speaking about strengthening the American Indian studies program at BSU and NTC.

"I want to say one of the most compelling and powerful things since I've been here is the potential for BSU and NTC to become a nationally recognized hub for Native American studies and Ojibwe language education," Hanson said. "It's absolutely stunning what you have here. We would work very hard to improve our capacity to finish Native American students at BSU and NTC."

Hanson suggested the two institutions create a nationally recognized repository of materials on Ojibwe and American Indian cultures so it becomes a destination for researchers.

According to Bill Maki, BSU-NTC's vice president for finance and administration, the recalibration effort is an official plan and no longer a proposal. He added, however, that Hanson will still likely accept comments from BSU-NTC students, staff, faculty and the community about the plan.

Maki said he expects it will take time before the groups who have met with Hanson express a reaction to the plan.

"There was a lot of information presented," Maki said in a phone interview Wednesday. "I am sure it will take each group some time to digest the implications of the whole plan before a complete reaction. We view this as just the beginning of a very complex recalibration plan since it affects many areas under the $5 million impact."

BSU and NTC are among many institutions within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities taking measures to overcome budget shortfalls.

"Each one of the MnSCU institutions are at various stages of dealing with these types issues," Maki said. "Each university or college has entered this phase at a different point and are reacting differently. The timing isn't lock-and-step. What is going on in St. Cloud or Mankato may not be what is going on in St. Paul. All are trying to meet the end goal of a balanced budget in 2012."

According to Maki, it is difficult to differentiate the amount of impact the plan will have on BSU versus NTC because many of the human resources and financial areas are aligned.

As far as the impact of academic programs, Maki said, the university will be hit harder with eliminations to its larger size.

Hanson and others will be presenting the recalibration plan today at the following times and locations:

E 10 a.m., all-campus meeting (all faculty and staff) in room 100 of Hagg-Sauer Hall at BSU.

E 12 noon, all-campus meeting in the community commons room at NTC.

E 1:30 p.m., student forum in the community commons room at NTC.

E 3 p.m., student forum in room 100 of Hagg-Sauer Hall at BSU.

E 4:30 p.m., press conference in the south conference room in Hobson Memorial Union at BSU.

Hanson and others will be presenting the recalibration plan today at the following times and locations:

- 10 a.m., all-campus meeting (all faculty and staff) in room 100 of Hagg-Sauer Hall at BSU.

- 12 noon, all-campus meeting in the community commons room at NTC.

- 1:30 p.m., student forum in the community commons room at NTC.

- 3 p.m., student forum in room 100 of Hagg-Sauer Hall at BSU.

- 4:30 p.m., press conference in the south conference room in Hobson Memorial Union at BSU.

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