DATE: November 4, 1999

TO: Board of Regents

FROM: Richard A. Crofts, Commissioner

RE: Policy 220

The agenda for the Academic and Student Affairs Committee includes proposed revisions in Board of Regents policy 220 dealing with higher education centers. As the enclosed letter indicates, I have shared these revisions with Presidents Quinn and Gillard and will be visiting each of them for a personal conversation. In order to give the independent colleges ample opportunity for review and comment, we will not ask the Regents to take any action on these revisions until January at the earliest.

As you consider this issue, I would like to put before you several observations about this policy that, in its current form, provides Carroll College and the University of Great Falls a virtual veto over new programs being offered in Helena or Great Falls by units of the university system.

  • As we have discussed on several occasions, the expansion of the use of technology to deliver courses and programs on the web and over the internet has seriously challenged efforts to regulate and control which institutions can offer courses in a state.
  • Because of changes in technology and legislative changes, any postsecondary institution—accredited or not, private or public, not-for-profit or proprietary—can offer courses anywhere and to anybody in Montana. The Regents can, of course, direct our campuses. However, the only other "regulation" that can occur is the apparent veto power that Carroll College and UGF can exercise over offerings in Helena or Great Falls by units of the university system.
  • A peculiar outcome of this policy is that this veto power is not extended to Rocky Mountain College in Billings where units of the university system and over 40 institutions from out-of-state are currently offering courses and programs. Despite the absence of this policy in Billings, conflict and contention between the university system and the local independent college has been almost non-existent.
  • The ability to influence, if not control, program offerings has been a one-way street. Despite their apparent ability to veto offerings by the university system, there is no provision for the independent colleges to consult with the university system prior to beginning new courses or programs.
  • While we may not want to unnecessarily duplicate courses or programs offered by the independent colleges, we have reason to be concerned about access to some programs by Montanans for two reasons. First, the independent colleges are much less likely to offer courses and programs on a schedule (nights and weekends) most convenient for non-traditional students who work during the day. Second, access to desired and needed academic programs may be limited or denied prospective students because of the higher costs of attending the independent colleges.
  • While there are many examples throughout the country of collaborative efforts between private and public institutions to meet the needs of underserved populations, I know of no other example where there is a one-way veto.
  • There seems to be little convincing reason why Montana citizens in Helena and Great Falls should be denied access to more affordable education when residents of other cities have those opportunities available to them.

It is my intention to involve Carroll College and the University of Great Falls in these discussions. It is my hope that we can find a collegial resolution for this issue that will benefit all Montana citizens.