Quistgaard unveils plan to deal with budget reduction at BSU

With a budget reduction of $5 million looming, Bemidji State University will face changes over the next three years that may include reducing the number of faculty and staff positions and the number of majors available to students.

With a budget reduction of $5 million looming, Bemidji State University will face changes over the next three years that may include reducing the number of faculty and staff positions and the number of majors available to students.

On Thursday, Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard unveiled a proposal to reduce, restructure and invest resources in light of the budget reduction during a press conference on campus.

The proposal was presented during a campus meeting earlier in the day and to leadership teams from various bargaining units earlier this week. Quistgaard asked the campus community to comment on the proposal within the next 10 days.

He said BSU will not announce specific details, including which academic departments could be affected, until after the comment period.

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. According to BSU, budget constraints are prompting the university to adjust expenditures by $5 million.


"These are challenging times in higher education," said Quistgaard, noting that 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.

Quistgaard said the proposed changes are not directly attributed to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's two-year state budget plan that would take effect July 1.

According to Bill Maki, vice president for finance and administration, 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. And, he added, the direction the state budget is heading for the next biennium confirms that conclusion.

He noted that BSU officials informed the campus community in October that the university would be undergoing the process of shaping a proposal over the next few months.

Changes proposed

According to Quistgaard, the proposal for reduction and realignment will not result in the retrenchment or layoff of any permanent or probationary faculty or staff.

He said the elimination of about 30 positions by 2010 will occur by not filling some positions that are currently vacant or will become vacant through retirement or normal attrition. He said BSU has had many retirements this past year and the last year, "far more than we would ordinarily experience."


He added, "The approximately 30 positions will come from across the university campus."

Some fixed-term and adjunct positions that are currently staffed by contracts, however, will be affected.

Restructuring is proposed to take place in academic and service areas, as well as athletics.

Three majors are proposed to become minors and one minor is proposed to be eliminated, said Joann Fredrickson, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. Meanwhile, she said, another major that was proposed to be eliminated will likely be restructured.

Any student currently enrolled in programs identified for redesignation in status will be able to finish the degree requirements before the change becomes final.

The restructuring also includes moving some functions within the university. For example, the plan proposes to relocate the environmental health and safety area to the campus security and safety department.

According to Quistgaard, efficiencies resulting from the shifting of resources will enable BSU to invest in new programs, such as continue the investment in engineering technology programs and the new four-year nursing major. Also in the plan is permanently funding a new Advising Success Center to improve student retention and student completion rates.

Besides eliminating selected vacancies and restructuring, BSU is proposing to initiate several actions to affect revenues.


These include:

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

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

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

-- 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.

Planning for future

Maki said BSU used four major assumptions while planning for the next few years. These assumptions are projections of enrollment, tuition, state appropriation and expenses.


"We're projecting our enrollment to remain relatively stable from where it's at now with some modest growth after the actions that we are proposing occur," Maki said.

He added that BSU will be slowing down the rate at which it increases tuition.

"We have projected that tuition will increase 4 percent each of the next three years," Maki said. "We're very pleased of being able to try to hold down tuition for students after many years of rapid growth."

State appropriation, he said, has changed dramatically over the past seven or eight years.

"At one time, the university was funded almost two-thirds from the state and one-third from tuition," Maki said.

Now, he said, most of the money used to support BSU's operations comes from tuition.

"As we look forward, we're projecting that the state appropriation that comes to the institution will increase by approximately 3 percent each of the next three years," he said.

Maki noted that most of BSU's expenditures are personnel-related. He said BSU is expecting overall personnel costs to rise about 4.5 percent each year.


"Our contracts are negotiated every biennium, and contracts will be expiring on June 30, 2007," Maki added.

Acquisition still on

Quistgaard said the acquisition of the old Bemidji High School property continues to move forward. In July 2005, the Bemidji School Board agreed in principle to sell about 11 acres of the property to the BSU Foundation.

"We have reason to believe that we are very likely to receive the legislative support that we've been seeking for a couple of sessions to acquire that property," he said. "Our foundation is very likely to be involved in the short term in terms of acquiring that property from the district and then later we would acquire it from our foundation."

He said plans for the property will be part of the university's new 40-year master plan for facilities and properties.

"We have a pattern over the years of acquiring additional properties to reorient our campus or to add new capacities into our campus," Quistgaard said. "My belief is that this situation that we have is a one-time opportunity."

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