Montana Board of Regents

 of Higher Education 

Minutes

Conference Call Meeting

 

December 16, 2003

 

Montana Higher Education Complex

2500 Broadway

Helena, MT 59620


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2003

 

ROLL CALL

 

The meeting was called to order at 9:05 a.m. - Roll Call indicated a Quorum Present  

 

Regents Present by conference phone: Ed Jasmin-Chair, Christian Hur-Vice Chair, John Mercer, Richard Roehm, Mark Semmens, and Lila Taylor.  

Regents Present on site:  Lynn Morrison-Hamilton.  Also present was Commissioner Sheila Stearns.

Regents Absent:  Governor Judy Martz ex officio, and Superintendent of Public Instruction Linda McCulloch ex officio

 

Locations linked to conference call:

Montana Higher Education Complex in Helena chaired by Regent Hamilton, Montana State University-Northern chaired by Chancellor Capdeville, The University of Montana-Missoula chaired by Regent Hur, Montana State UniversityĖBillings chaired by Chancellor Sexton, Montana State University-Bozeman chaired by Regent Roehm, Dawson Community College chaired by President Hetrick, Miles Community College chaired by President Hammon, and Flathead Valley Community College chaired by Sheila Gestring.  Also linked were Regents Ed Jasmin, John Mercer, Mark Semmens with Mary Moe, and President Dennison patched in from Seattle, and Lila Taylor.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE/BUDGET ITEMS

 

a.   ITEM 121-101-C1203 - Governorís Allocation    Memo    Attachment

   Regent Semmens Moved Approval of Item a.

 

Chairman Jasmin requested Regent Hamilton to chair the remainder of the meeting since she was in the Helena office with OCHE staff.

 

Commissioner Stearns welcomed everyone around the state attending by conference call, and noted that the Helena location was represented by the Governorís office, The University of Montana-Western, Montana Tech of The University of Montana, OPI, the Legislative Fiscal office, the Board of Public Education, the media and the teachers union.  She gave the background of the item indicating the possibility of this opportunity was foreseen at the July 2003 meeting in Kalispell with the approval of a motion to set aside any dollars received for resident student tuition relief.  It was further discussed with the students at the September meeting in Billings, but not much prospect was held out.  In a surprise visit to the November 2003, meeting Governor Martz announced her allocation of $2.7 million to the Montana University System.  It was clear the Governor hoped the funds would be directed with $2 million going to access, $450,000 to the Community Colleges, and $250,000 to a pilot project at The University of Montana-Missoula for distance learning for rural K-12 students.  Immediately after the meeting discussions were started with the campuses, and it was deemed prudent to move the item along for action prior to students leaving for Christmas break to help them make their decisions on whether to return to campus for spring semester.  Commissioner Stearns indicated there were many calls and discussions in preparation for this meeting as there are for all meetings.  Included was the development of the plan for the $250,000 allocation to the pilot project at UM-Missoula.  Dean Paul Rowland met with leaders of the K-12 community and others to review the plan and answer concerns.  He has submitted an amended proposal answering those concerns.  The Community Colleges also submitted their proposals for the $450,000 allocation to them.   Commissioner Stearns noted that Dawson Community College had submitted an amended version of their proposal which was more in line with the intent of the allocation.  She had communications with Carol Juneau in regards to using some of the funds for non-beneficiary students enrolled at the tribal colleges.  She explained it was too late in the process to make such an adjustment, and it was not best to wait until the January meeting to take it up.  Further, Governor Martz had not recommended this use when she made the presentation.  After receiving all the proposals from the campuses, the Commissioner and staff took the package to the Governorís office and walked them through the various parts.  They were satisfied with the document presented.

 

Regent Semmens requested that for clarity the item be discussed in three separate stages: the Community College proposals, student assistance, and the $250,000 proposal at UM.  Regent Hur noted that all the plans would help students, and that those presented by Montana Tech and MSU-Billings followed the guidelines set at the July meeting.  He stated the Governor asked that the Board do this earlier than later.  If the funds are released immediately, they will affect spring retention.

 

President Gamble agreed that all the proposals addressed student need.  If it is going to be used to impact retention, now is the time to make the decision.  MSU financial aid people will be contacting students by the end of the week if this is approved.  Regent Roehm expressed concern about the haste of pulling the meeting together as a conference call, rather than waiting until the January regular meeting, but recognized the advantage of an early decision.  He was concerned the Board could be rushed to make a judgment without adequate input.  He also felt the Community Colleges should be held to the same requirement to help students with these funds as the MUS campuses are.

Chairman Jasmin supported the process underway.

 

Regent Mercer recalled the action in July to press toward student assistance with flexibility on how to accomplish it.  He believes the Board will be in a position to look at the different approaches and measure the effect of each on retention.  He did wonder why the meeting was being done by conference call, although he would not favor delaying until later.  His last issue was that the funds be used to benefit resident students.  He asked if all the proposals were geared to residents, and if not, he wanted to make a motion that these funds be applied only to resident students.  That was the original intent of his motion in July.

 

Regent Taylor was also concerned that resident students were mentioned in only some of the proposals.

 

Regent Semmens asked UM if the allocation for the Helena College of Technology and UM-Western perpetual loan fund was a revolving account.  President Dennison indicated the funds were for the Perkins Loan program, and the Presidentís Loan program and they have ways to reclaim the money.  It will always be available to loan to students.  Regent Semmens indicated he was concerned about the rising debt load for students, and wondered if these could become grants rather than loans.  Vice President Robert Duringer replied it would require replenishment by the state every year.  He noted that 25 years ago, 75% of aid was grants, and today only 25% is in grants.  The Stafford Loan is the largest program they have, at $40 million per year.  The Perkins is a couple million dollars and has more flexibility.  Although interest rates are currently inverted, the program historically has provided lower rates for students.  There is more flexibility in repayment possibilities for students, forgiveness, low income, teachers in rural areas, medical workers, and volunteers.  Regent Semmens indicated he was pleased with the creativity in the proposals to target retention and recruitment, but was curious why Billings and Montana Tech chose to spread it across the board which would provide about $25 to each student, rather than giving it to those who most needed it.  Chancellor Sexton assumed they would be making recommendations consistent with the policy adopted in July, and discussed in September.  They spoke with students, and a number have significant needs but choose not to go into debt but rather work two or three jobs.  Maggie Peterson of Montana Tech indicated Chancellor Gilmore met with the students and showed the options being offered by the other campuses, and they believed that across the board relief would be best.  Sixty percent of their students qualify for need under Title 3, and although not a large amount of money, it adds up over four semesters.

 

In considering the Community College proposals, President Hetrick indicated they had put forth three priorities.  The first proposal was in violation of the intent of the allocation, and was retracted and replaced with a new proposal.  Their priorities are to increase scholarship and work-study funds, direct tuition relief, and expansion of distance learning.  President Hammon stated that Miles Community College is focusing on access with scholarships, extension of certain programs to Sydney and Glendive, and a variety of distance education programs.  Sheila Gestring noted Flathead Valley Community College is focusing on increased access, expansion of the allied health programs, and scholarships.  Regent Roehm indicated he wanted to see consistency.  The Board had approved tuition relief, and the Governor recommended access.  He questioned how the two statements should be interpreted.  If the Board is intent on relief for students, he suggested the Community Colleges should also adhere to the same guidelines.  Regent Mercer indicated he was comfortable that the Community Colleges had developed priorities that are very focused on access, even if there is no immediate relief to students.  He asked if the campuses had met with their trustees, students and administration.  President Hammon indicated they met with their trustees last night and they agreed with the three proposals set forth.  There was no student involvement, but they did meet with the nursing department, which has a long wait list in both Miles City and Sydney.  They also met with the Glendive community who wants to receive the program sooner rather than later.  Sheila Gestring indicated they met with their trustees yesterday and they were pleased with the proposal.  They have weekly meetings with student senate, and these three priorities have been discussed many times.  Kalispell Community Medical Center has expressed theirs needs, and Troy and Eureka are meeting with the Libby campus to expand programs to those areas.

 

Since Dean Rowland and Provost Muir needed to leave the meeting, discussion was moved to the $250,000 allocation to distance learning at UM-Missoula.  Dean Rowland indicated he tried to put together a collaborative approach and at the end of the proposal there are four key elements: 1) Establishment of the Oversight Committee consisting of the P-20 Committee of the Board of Education; 2) Development of a full project proposal with input and review from representatives of the various stakeholders (including members of the E-learning Committee of the Board of Public Education) and approval by the Oversight Committee and UM-M administration; 3) Conducting a thorough needs assessment with the appropriate partners to identify the kinds of courses to be offered in this project; 4) Establishing collaborative partnerships with the participating public school districts.  These elements were worked out to resolve concerns of various groups.  He indicated the budget and actual proposal will be forthcoming.  Erik Burke of MEA-MFT noted several concerns they had with the original proposal: the manner the proposal came into being; no full project proposal was developed with input from the school districts; lack of coordination with existing distance learning programs to blend rather than duplicate; and possibility this is a means to create a separate educational system outside of OPI and BPE by having the MUS design K-12 programs.  He explained that the final proposal of Dean Rowland solved all their concerns and they are now supportive of it.  Regent Hur requested the item be divided before voting, and was advised he needed to make a motion to that effect.

 

   Regent Hur Moved to divide item a. and delay the $250,000 allocation to the January 15-16, 2004 meeting.

Following discussion of the pros and cons of delaying this part of the allocation, Regent Semmens pointed out that the proposal as outlined is responsive to need for active collaboration of K-12 constituencies in implementation and will be a great example of benefits from coordinated efforts.  Erik Burke agreed that the final proposal was acceptable.

   Regent Jasmin Called for the Question

*   Motion to divide and delay the $250,000 portion of the allocation was DEFEATED on 6-1 vote with Regent Hur supporting.

 

Madelyn Quinlan, who represented OPI for Linda McCulloch, indicated they had some of the same concerns that had already been raised.  She appreciates the help that went into the final proposal.  One key governance issue for OPI is that they accredit programs, not courses.  It is up to the local school boards to be sure the courses meet the requirements for the programs.  She asked if this item addresses programs or courses.  Steve Meloy announced that BPE appreciates the work done in defense of Board of Public Ed oversight of K-12 education.  Also, in the last two years, BPE has spent a great amount of time developing a good working relationship with OCHE, MUS and the Council of Deans.  He believes they have a very viable P-20 committee, and this could be their first project.  No money will be spent until the entire plan has come forward and been approved.

 

Aaron Flint (ASUM) stated the students and senate had worked with the administration in developing the campus wide allocation.  The student senate passed the proposal unanimously.  He mentioned the students in the middle-income group are the ones having the greatest difficulty financing their education.  He further believes that if non-resident students are excluded from the allocation, it will hurt resident students.

 

  Regent Mercer Moved to add language at the appropriate place in the proposal stating this allocation from the Governor is to benefit only Montana resident students.

 

Regent Mercer explained that if they were looking to make the best fiscal decision, the entire allocation would be put directly in non-resident students since they pay more.  However, the allocation is a tax refund and should be used for Montana students.  Chuck Butler indicated it was the Governorís intent that the allocation benefit Montana students.  However, she would also appreciate Aaron Flintís comments.

 

  Regent Semmens AMENDED his original motion to add language suggested by Regent Mercer that the approval of the item is with the understanding that the benefits be directed to resident students.

 

Regent Semmens asked if any of the campuses saw a problem in directing the funds to resident students.  Mick Hansen of UM explained that the Perkins account and the Presidents Loan account include both resident and non-resident students.  They can restrict this allocation to residents, however the funds will be commingled with those for non-residents, leaving a poor paper trail.  Chancellor Sexton indicated their plan was to direct the funds to benefit resident students.  Maggie Peterson from Montana Tech indicated they would be happy to direct the funds to resident students.  Regent Taylor noted the University System has the opportunity to show the people of Montana that it is looking after their desires, and to earn their respect.  In answer to a question from Regent Semmens, Regent Mercer indicated the amended motion satisfies his intent.  Regent Jasmin asked if precatory language could be added that it was the intent if at all possible to find a practical way to benefit resident students, but if there were compelling reasons to cover all the students, it could be more flexible.  Regent Mercer noted he appreciated what Regent Jasmin was trying to accomplish, but he did not believe it was the proper way to go.

 

  Regent Semmens RESTATED the AMENDED MOTION to approve the proposal as laid out with the understanding that the funds be directed for the benefit of Montana students. 

*  Motion Approved Unanimously on 7-0 Roll Call vote.


With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 a.m.


With no further business to come before the Board, the meeting adjourned at 9:55 a.m.

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