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BSU president, administrators present update on budget plan

As Bemidji State University faces a three-year, $5 million budget readjustment, decisions on three academic majors initially proposed to be reduced to minors will wait until next fall.

As Bemidji State University faces a three-year, $5 million budget readjustment, decisions on three academic majors initially proposed to be reduced to minors will wait until next fall.

The update on the theatre, economics and German majors came Friday in a media briefing on campus in which BSU President Jon Quistgaard and other administrators announced the university's plan to reduce, restructure and invest resources.

"We're not taking any final action with regard to those three programs at this time," said Joann Fredrickson, provost and vice president for academic affairs. "But rather, we are entertaining an opportunity for further discussion."

She said this discussion will not only include faculty in these three programs, but the broader faculty community.

"What we're really looking at is academic innovation and changes in our curriculum," Fredrickson said.

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Meanwhile, BSU's budget plan does include the elimination of the anthropology minor.

Other changes include eliminating about 25 positions by 2010 by not filling some positions that are currently vacant or will become vacant through retirements or normal attrition. While the plan will not result in the retrenchment or layoff of permanent or probationary faculty and staff, some positions currently staffed by contracts for a short time or specific purpose will be affected.

"These decisions are not easy," Quistgaard said. "They're difficult choices."

But, he said, the university's goal remains unchanged.

"It is to be recognized as the premier four-year state university in Minnesota and in the Midwest," Quistgaard said..

BSU's budget plan lays out three steps the university will take to achieve this goal.

"These steps include budget adjustments, rethinking organizational offering and services, and new investments," he said.

The $5 million restructuring plan includes $4 million in operating reductions and $1 million in new revenue streams. Most of the proposals will begin in the next fiscal year, and all of the reductions and realignments will be in place by fiscal year 2010.

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The plan was developed after consideration and input from a broad constituency, including faculty, bargaining units, students, community groups, alumni and concerned individuals, following an initial proposal to the campus community Feb. 15.

"As we have moved through our deliberation and consultation processes, we've worked very hard to respect the diversity of opinions that have been expressed," Quistgaard said.

On Feb. 15, Bill Maki, vice president for finance and administration, said BSU anticipates enrollment and revenue will grow modestly and expenditures will keep growing faster than revenue, so the university needed to make changes.

In 2010, BSU's operating budget will be about $50 million, Maki noted Friday.

"So we're talking about the magnitude of approximately 10 percent of our budget," he said.

Another adjustment related to the budget plan is restructuring BSU's varsity intercollegiate athletics offerings over the next three to five years, which includes the fund-raising of $2.5 million to support NCAA Division I men's hockey.

The restructuring also includes moving some functions within BSU, including relocating the environmental health and safety area to the campus security and safety department.

"But within the $5 million, there are also some dollars that we're reinvesting back into the creation of new programs and expanding some additional programs, as well," Quistgaard said.

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Next fall, for example, BSU will launch a four-year baccalaureate nursing major, which is expected to bring 200 new students to campus over the next four years. Quistgaard said BSU has already received more than 100 applications for admission into the program.

"So there obviously is a demand in this area as we have anticipated," Quistgaard said.

Meanwhile, BSU will expand the faculty in the psychology and criminal justice programs to complement enrollment growth. The budget plan also includes permanent funding for a new Advising Success Center.

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