BSU may reduce some academic programs to help cut budget by $5 million

As Bemidji State University prepares to reduce its budget by $5 million, some academic programs -- including theatre, German and anthropology -- face potential cuts.

As Bemidji State University prepares to reduce its budget by $5 million, some academic programs -- including theatre, German and anthropology -- face potential cuts.

According to a proposal presented by BSU President Jon Quistgaard at a campus meeting Feb. 15 and later that day at a media session, some majors may be reduced to minors and one minor may be eliminated.

Several other changes are also proposed as BSU plans to reduce, restructure and invest resources in light of the budget reduction. Changes could include the elimination of about 30 positions by 2010 by not filling some positions that are currently vacant or will become vacant through retirements or normal attrition.

While many of the proposals would begin in the next fiscal year, most of the reductions and realignments would be in place by fiscal year 2010. BSU has reported that budget constraints are prompting it to adjust expenditures by $5 million.

At this time, Quistgaard is not commenting on which academic programs are proposed for reduction, according to Rose Jones, director of communications and marketing at BSU.


Meanwhile, faculty members are responding to the news of potential reductions in their departments.

One of the majors proposed to be reduced to a minor is theater, said Patrick Carriere, chair of the theater and communication arts department.

He said one of the reasonings behind the proposed cut is administration felt that cutting out major coursework would allow faculty to focus on a stronger production schedule.

"But we can't do the productions without the majors," said Carriere, noting that students majoring in theater do most of the work on the productions.

According to Carriere, Bemidji Community Theater has drafted a petition asking BSU's administration to reconsider the proposal to end the major. The petition has been available to sign at "Kiss Me, Kate," a musical that is currently showing through Saturday at BSU. The musical is a collaboration between Bemidji Community Theater and the BSU theater program.

On the other end of campus, the modern languages department is responding to BSU's proposal to reduce the German major to a minor.

"The proposal's on the table, but we hope it won't happen," said Blanca Rivera, chair of the modern languages department.

She noted that the proposal is contrary to one of the university's signature themes, which is global understanding.


"Languages are an essential part," Rivera noted.

If the German major becomes a minor, BSU will no longer be able to offer a German licensure in education, she said.

Meanwhile, Alan Brew, a BSU anthropology professor who plans to retire this spring, said the anthropology minor is being considered for elimination.

BSU's proposal would also combine the philosophy and history departments, said Kit Christensen, chair of the philosophy department.

"But we would maintain our programs," Christensen said.

As proposed, BSU would continue to offer both philosophy and history as majors and minors, noted Tom Murphy, chair of the history department.

"That part doesn't go away," Murphy said.

The proposed change, added Christensen, appears to be purely administrative, perhaps by having one department chair for both programs rather than one for each program.


According to BSU, any student currently enrolled in programs identified for re-designation in status will be able to finish the degree requirements before the change becomes final.

Shifting of resources

When presenting in February BSU's proposal to reduce, restructure and invest resources, Quistgaard noted that efficiencies resulting from the shifting of resources will enable BSU to invest in new programs, such as engineering technology programs and the four-year baccalaureate nursing major.

"In the reducing of $5 million, there's also money within that that we're going to use to reinvest in some new areas that we think are critical to workforce needs that are out there and new areas that we have reason to believe students may have a great interest in," Quistgaard said at the Feb. 15 media session.

He said, for example, the new four-year baccalaureate nursing program will add about 40-50 new students to campus in each of the next four years. The new major will be offered in addition to the current completion baccalaureate in nursing.

"Nursing is a field where there are statewide shortages, let alone national shortages," Quistgaard said Feb. 15.

Also included in BSU's proposal is permanently funding a new Advising Success Center to improve student retention and student completion rates.

Other possibilities


Besides possibly restructuring academic programs and eliminating positions, which will not result in the retrenchment or layoff of permanent or probationary faculty and staff, BSU is proposing other restructuring measures, as well.

For example, the proposal includes relocating the environmental health and safety area to the campus security and safety department.

Meanwhile, the university is proposing to initiate several actions to affect revenues.

These include:

E aligning the banded tuition with the 18-credit cap in place at other institutions in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.

E establishing differential tuition for upper-division courses in some majors based on such factors as cost and demand.

E raising student athletic fees and increasing ticket prices for NCAA Division I men's hockey games.

E adding enrollment from newly created programs.


BSU is also taking action to restructure its athletic offerings and determine the steps to assure the long-term viability of its NCAA Division I men's hockey program. It plans to seek admission to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association in 2008 and move forward with a campaign to raise $2.5 million in pledges for the men's program by the spring of 2008.

Budget outlook

At the Feb. 15 media session, Quistgaard said higher education in Minnesota, like other states, has been receiving less support from the state government to operate institutions. He said BSU officials have been discussing the university's budget outlook and its potential impact for about two years.

Bill Maki, vice president for finance and administration, noted at the media session that BSU anticipated enrollment and revenue were going to grow modestly and expenditures were going to keep growing faster than revenue, so the university needed to make changes. He added that the direction the state budget is heading for the next biennium confirms that conclusion.

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