Montana State University

MSU President Cruzado launches initiatives aimed at helping students with financial literacy and timely graduation

April 27, 2012 -- MSU News Service

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Montana State University President Waded Cruzado announced on Friday the launch of three major initiatives to help students through college: financial literacy training for new students and their parents, an expansion of tutoring and advising services to help students succeed, and a renewed effort to help students graduate more quickly.

"For the benefit of our nation and for individuals to compete in our global economy, the importance of a college education is more apparent than ever," Cruzado said. "These initiatives will help students stay in college, make the right financial decisions and graduate in a shorter number of years."

MSU already provides financial information about the costs of college, but the university can do even more to help students and their parents understand the different types of loans, their interest rates and repayment obligations, Cruzado said.

"Part of educating our students should include teaching them about college costs, how to pay for college and what impact debt will have on their life after graduation," Cruzado said. "As a land-grant university, part of our mission is to educate our students to be informed citizens and leaders in our society. We should also help them be informed citizens about their personal finances."

Most MSU students - 66 percent - borrow money to pay for their education. The average debt incurred by MSU students is $25,682.

As part of the initiative, both incoming students and their parents will receive a financial orientation when they visit campus this summer. The university will also examine its curriculums so that any student that wishes to graduate in four years is not hindered by class schedules.

"The more quickly students can earn their degrees, the less debt they are likely to incur during their college years," Cruzado said.

Additionally, the university will look at what resources it can provide students so they don't drop out after one or two years, but rather continue on to earn a degree.

"To have students drop out after one or two years because they didn't have the tutoring or didn't make a personal connection that inspired them to stay just isn't acceptable," Cruzado said. "We want our students to feel at home, to feel the Bobcat spirit, and we want them to succeed."

The efforts will be far-reaching, Cruzado said, and will begin with the appointment of an executive officer to oversee the initiatives.

"These issues are extremely important and complex, and we need someone dedicated full time to improving the university's work in these areas," Cruzado said. "The ideal person needs to be someone well-respected, with a deep institutional knowledge and a great passion for helping our students. Fortunately, MSU has just such a person in Allen Yarnell."

Yarnell, vice president of the Division of Student Success, will take on the duties as executive officer on June 1. Yarnell, who came to MSU in 1994 as vice provost for student affairs and became vice president in 1998, will leave the Division of Student Success to take his new position as executive officer.

"I am humbled by President Cruzado's confidence in me and by the importance of this task," Yarnell said. "My whole career has been about helping students, and I'm excited to focus on these extremely important initiatives."

Jim Rimpau, currently vice president of the Office of Planning and Analysis, will take over as vice president of the Division of Student Success. Rimpau came to MSU in 2002 as executive director of planning and analysis and became vice president in 2008.

"Jim is an excellent fit to lead the Division of Student Success," Cruzado said. "Because of his planning and student enrollment management background, he has an intimate knowledge of who our students are, where they come from and the challenges they face."

Prior to coming to MSU in 2002, Rimpau was vice provost of enrollment management at Washington State University in Pullman. As vice president of MSU's Division of Student Success, Rimpau will once again focus on enrollment and student services.

"I'm really looking forward to using what I know from my work on our new strategic plan in the realm of student services," Rimpau said. "Also, I love working with students, and this is a great opportunity to work more with our student body."