To:   The Board of Regents

From:   Sheila Stearns, Commission

Date: October 18, 2004

The following list of issues for your consideration has been assembled from discussions with Board members, OCHE staff, presidents and chancellors, and many stakeholders of the University System with whom I have conversed over the past year, or listened to their concerns expressed in many meetings. The list is not all-encompassing, and if I have missed a key issue, I am sure that it will come to light.

In discussions with Chairman Mercer, I am sending the list to Board members and others to consider for prioritizing and planning on October 26. I hereby ask Deputy Commissioners Barber and Sundsted, and Presidents Dennison and Gamble, to select one of the issues they identified in their background paper, as a top priority for discussion with the Board during Session 1 on the agenda. I will do the same. We should include in our 10-15 minutes presentations, not just identifying the issue, but an outline of a plan to address the priority issue effectively short-term and long-term. Other officers and stakeholders of MUS who choose to attend will have the opportunity to contribute their thoughts on these and other issues during Session 2 on the agenda.

General reflections on the context of the planning process: The number of Montana high school graduates is declining; Montana itself will grow moderately in population; increase in learners will primarily be among those 25 and older who are seeking to enhance skills and continue learning, most for job-related aspirations. Yet a high-quality education for residential, traditional age students will continue to be very important to thousands of Montana families.

MUS should continue to improve its data collection capability as a basis for a high-quality, competitive educational system that attracts or keeps in Montana a significant share of traditional-age students, businesses and professionals who seek proximity to high-quality colleges and universities, and lifelong learners not just for the sake of the University System, but for Montana itself.

In some respects, the MUS has developed two systems of public higher education that share a common governing board and overarching set of policies. The restructuring of 1994 added immense system wide duties to the responsibilities of the two presidents. We added, in effect, the duties of deputy commissioner to the expectations of their positions. The advantages have been huge: It is impossible to imagine that many ways of sharing expertise and resources among the units in each of the two systems could have happened any other way. The disadvantages have been notable as well: a sense of restriction, justified or not, is frequently cited as demoralizing to the smaller units.

The lump sum distribution to the Board of Regents provides important flexibility in managing toward the outcomes it seeks. But can we more clearly identify the ways that campus budgets will always rise and fall for particular units depending on the legislative appropriation, so that regional legislative delegations share in a sense of loss or gain with our students, depending on legislative action? Is the allocation model fundamentally sound but under-funded; should it be revised modestly to ensure survival base budget for all campuses, or does it need an overhaul?

We should operate in such a way that more Montana leaders currently active in their professions can serve on the Board of Regents. The Board requires an enormous, often onerous commitment from each member. Some thought should be given to this: does it unduly limit the pool of those who are able to serve in these critical positions for seven years, or constantly leave them feeling as if they aren t fulfilling expectations of the position to the extent they themselves really think is necessary?

The Board should discuss its aspirations for the System for the next two biennia, more specifically of course for 2005-2007. A key question for the Board is to determine how much more collaboration can or should occur, and when that question is answered, how to accomplish the goal with minimal increase in administrative layers and expense. Can we be more systematic with both a small s and capital S, without sacrificing flexibility and creativity? These questions just scratch the surface of the issues we face. But this one-day planning process by the Board should let System leaders know which questions are most important to them and for which they would ask MUS leaders for options and alternatives. Collaboration can be improved in a number of areas. What are the priorities to tackle first, after the ones identified by the Shared Leadership/ Stronger Montana Economy initiative, which clearly took a front seat this year?

Montana Board of Regents
Planning Issues
October 26, 2004

System Issues:

Allocation Model



Data Management

Human Resource Management

Program Review

Quality Assurance


Competitive Positioning



Research & Technology

Equipment, Laboratories, Facilities


Responsiveness to Montana
Shared Leadership for a Stronger Montana Economy

Economic Development

Distance Learning

Workforce Training

Collaboration with business and government

Research and Technology Transfer

New/Modified programs

Recruitment of non-resident students

Joint tourism promotion


Student Services

Safety-security for residential students

Services for extended campus students

Retention strategies

Auxiliary services & amenities


Board of Education

Future of P-20

Indian Education for All

Unified Budget

Joint Planning


Vision and Goals

See October 2001 statement (attached).