The efforts by University of Montana administrators to bring the budget in line with enrollment continue with more meetings to set priorities moving forward in all programs and departments.

Interim President Sheila Stearns published an opinion piece on Monday describing the ongoing effort.

Stearns said each program and position is being evaluated in four ways.

"Is this a product or a program for growth?" she began. "Is it one that can be streamlined? Is it a program that data indicates should be substantially modified in some way, or is it too new of a program? So, that's what the committee is doing."

Stearns said the top priority for students is that programs will continue long enough to ensure that they can successfully complete their degrees.

"We want to make sure that students finish on time, on the schedule they would have been on, but based on this process, some programs might not be a program that we admit new majors into, so that's a little different than what people are thinking about when it comes to total cuts," she said. "The committees will be presenting their final lists to my office by Wednesday, November 8."

Following that, Stearns said the various committees and organizations on campus will have the chance to comment further on the administrations recommendations, until mid December when she will make her final recommendations.

The plan is to streamline the university by the time the new president presents the budget to the Board of Regents by late spring.

"Some of these changes will be implemented in time to either make additional investments, or to cut costs for the 2019 fiscal year or the 2020 fiscal year," she said. "This is for gradual implementation over the next two to three years."

The one wild card in the scenario is the prospect of increasing enrollment.

"We have a nice number of faculty right now for 14,000 students, but not for 12,000 students," Stearns said. "It's a two pronged effort to get to that 75 percent goal of personnel costs to enrollment. One is to grow enrollment, one is to reduce staff. You don't grow enrollment overnight, and you don't reduce staff overnight, you need to make both sides work together well."

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