University of Montana leaders announce plans to cut $5M, but retain most programs

Posted at 6:51 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-08 00:19:19-05

MISSOULA – Nearly a year after announcing the largest cuts in decades, University of Montana administrators say campus leaders have been able to develop a plan to save nearly $5 million, but retain most of UM’s programs.

UM Provost Jon Harbor says the cuts will use a combination of reducing staff, some through voluntary buyouts and on-campus transfers, and realigning of the school’s offerings for students.

“The academic units worked really hard to meet strategic priorities which included preserving majors and minors,” Harbor said. “We heard loud and clear from our students and stakeholders that we should continue to offer an outstanding breadth and depth of programs.”

The announcement of the cuts came Wednesday, after college leadership had submitted proposals late last month. The cuts would still impact Humanities offerings the hardest, with 58 full-time equivalent positions lost in all areas.

But Harbor told reporters that amounts to 12 percent of UM’s total workforce, and many of the reductions have already been made through voluntary departures and buyouts, and reassignments in recent months.

When President Seth Bodnar announced the cuts and “strategic realignment” last spring to match declining enrollment, the campus and community responded with concern. But Harbor says with UM avoiding “retrenchment”, or laying off tenured professors, the school can preserve career faculty, working to improve student recruitment and retention, and serving western Montana business and communities.

“I’m really excited by the plan that the teams I work with have in place for expanding summer programs, developing new online opportunities,” Harbor said. “I’ve been meeting with business leaders to talk about programs that meet the needs, the continuing education needs of their staff. More collaboration between our employers and the university. So, I think my sense is that there’s a lot of optimism. There’s still a lot of hard work to do. But there’s a sense that we’ve got a plan in place. We can achieve this.”

Harbor says he’s also encouraged by a rebound in student recruiting this year.

Plans are to have the savings in place for the start of the 2022 fiscal year.

Reporting by Dennis Bragg for MTN News