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> NASC Accreditation  > Self Study
Introdution

 THE SETTING

Montana State University - Bozeman (MSU) is a land-grant institution authorized by the Morrill Act of 1862. MSU derives its support from biennial state legislature appropriations, student tuition and fees, federal land-grant income, and private and public grants.

Nearly 12,000 students attend MSU. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of these students are working towards their first bachelor's degree, 8% are working towards a doctorate or master's, and 4% are taking courses beyond their first bachelor's.  Students can be found from each of the fifty (50) states and from seventy-five (75) foreign countries.  Montana residents comprise nearly three-quarters of the total enrollment, and nearly one-quarter of the students are over twenty-five (25) years old.

There are over 650 faculty members in residence at MSU.  Seventy-five percent (75%) hold terminal degrees in their fields, and over two-thirds hold doctorate degrees.  The student/faculty ratio is about 19.5 to 1.

The 1,170-acre campus is the setting for over forty (40) classroom and administrative buildings, ten (10) residence halls, four (4) cafeterias, a Health and Physical Education Complex, the Museum of the Rockies, and the Student Union Building.  The Centennial Mall, located in the center of campus, is the primary pedestrian way and is used by students for studying, eating, and outdoor socializing.

MSU is located in Bozeman, a city of approximately 30,000 people.  Bozeman lies in the heart of the Gallatin Valley which is a rich farmland surrounded by the mountains of southwestern Montana.  Bozeman's altitude is 4,800 feet which brings temperate, dry summer temperatures (65-85 degrees with 15 degrees cooler at night), as well as dry cold temperatures in the winter ( 0-45 degrees).  An average of 83.5 inches of snow falls each year.  Southwestern Montana is full of rivers, streams, lakes, and mountains, providing year-round recreational opportunities.

 THE CONTEMPORARY CONTEXT

Since MSU's last full-scale evaluation in 1990, a number of major institutional changes have taken place.  Because these have impacted nearly every aspect of the institution, they are briefly introduced here as a means of setting the context for this Self-Study.  All of the changes are fully referenced and discussed where appropriate within the following Standards.

RESTRUCTURING

In 1994 the Montana University System (MUS), per the Board of Regents (BOR), was restructured into two (2) designated comprehensive universities - MSU and the University of Montana (UM). MSU became the lead institution and administrative center for three (3) smaller affiliates - MSU-Billings, MSU- Northern (Havre), and the MSU College of Technology in Great Falls.  

As the Restructuring was phased in, the BOR eliminated previous Role and Scope Statements (1995).  Prior to this time, these statements had defined the specific types of programs and degrees each unit was allowed to offer.  All units within the MUS now have more autonomy in their missions, strategic plans, and academic offerings.  A new Mission Statement was required, and MSU's new statement was officially approved by the BOR in 1997.

PLANNING

A Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) was formed in 1993, and it presented a plan that was approved and endorsed by the campus in early 1994.  The purpose of the plan was to serve as a means to implement the University's Mission.

In 1997, the Special Review Committee (SRC) was formed to look at all university operations in response to pressing budgetary issues.  The SRC's charge was to search for solutions to serious budget issues.  The committee came to a much broader conclusion, however, determining that the planning and budgeting processes of the institution needed major revision.  The SRC recommended the formation of a new committee that would be charged to concurrently look at planning and budget issues.

The Strategic Planning and Budget Committee (SPBC) was subsequently formed in 1998.  The SPBC was charged with making strategic planning and budgeting recommendations to the President that were in concert with funding priorities and the academic mission of the institution.

Also in 1998 the Long Range Plan (LRP) was revised with a specific review of the Program and Process Goals.   Care was taken to coordinate all changes with the work of the SPBC.

ACADEMIC PROGRAMS

Two (2) external mandates have occurred since 1990, each resulting in changes to the structure and pedagogy of undergraduate and graduate programs.  First, in 1991 the BOR mandated a change from quarters to semesters.  In the process of the conversion, each degree offering was thoroughly reviewed and assessed for currency and viability.

The second substantive change, occurring in 1996 as part of the Restructuring plan, also affected the structure and pedagogy of the academic programs.  Four (4) goals were established: "getting in," "getting through," "getting a job," and "paying the way. " These goals resulted in raising entry standards, developing an aggressive advising program, designing all undergraduate degrees to be a maximum of 120 credits, simplifying core requirements for transfer students from other MUS units, and providing the option of a graduation guarantee.

In support of the effectiveness of the academic programs, the Assessment and Outcomes Committee (A&O) was formed in 1996 to serve in an advisory capacity to the Provost.  The A&O oversees a campus-wide program to assess student learning and outcomes in general education and the undergraduate majors. The development and systematic review of program Assessment Plans and Assessment Summaries now has been operationalized.  In addition, capstone courses have been established for every academic program. These courses serve as a means for students to creatively analyze, synthesize, and evaluate learned knowledge in a professional setting.

STUDENTS

There have been definite changes in the student population since 1990.  Foremost, there has been sustained growth in the student population - the current head count is nearly 15% higher than 1990.  Out-of-state students now comprise over 32% of the student population, compared to 25% in 1992.  The number of students above traditional age (over 25), however, has declined.  The percentage was over 28% in 1990, but is now just over 23%. Only gender distributions have remained consistent  - 45% female and 55% male.  

FACULTY

The biggest impact on faculty since the 1990 accreditation has been the institution of the 1995 Productivity, Quality and Outcomes Agreement (PQO).  At the same time the Restructuring plan was being implemented, Montana's Governor presented a plan for a "New Partnership" with higher education.  All MUS institutions were invited to identify ways to reward efficiency, productivity, and positive results in higher education.  MSU was particularly affected by this challenge because, unlike the majority of the institutions in the MUS, MSU does not have collective bargaining agreements for faculty.  MSU responded with the PQO Agreement, a demonstration of the institution's commitment to increasing the effectiveness of the University to better serve the state.  The Agreement established instructional goals very much in concert with the goals of the Restructuring.  Ultimately faculty workloads were affected - the PQO called for a 15% increase in a specific faculty teaching load measure over a four (4)-year period of time.  In return, faculty would receive salary increases commensurate with competitive market levels.

THE LIBRARIES/INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

The biggest change in The Libraries has been the transition to an electronic infrastructure.  This strong optical fiber connection has been accompanied by an equally strong instructional program designed to prepare faculty and students to use information resources effectively. The Libraries' Web site is the access point for all library resources and services, including the catalog and holdings of the four (4) MSU campuses, three (3) tribal colleges, one (1) public community college, and one (1) private college. Electronic resources include databases, journals, reserves, user forms for loans and acquisitions, and instructional Web pages.

ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES

The 1994 Restructuring, as discussed earlier in this section, has impacted nearly every aspect of the institution.  A significant result of the Restructuring was the re-titling in 1994 of the MUS units. Montana State University became Montana State University - Bozeman; Eastern Montana College became Montana State University - Billings, and Northern Montana College became Montana State University - Northern.

In 1991, MSU inaugurated its tenth president, who continues to serve the institution.  There has been turnover in positions at the vice presidential level.  Three (3) previous chief academic officers are now presidents at land-grant institutions, including MSU's current president. Two (2) previous chief financial officers moved to the same positions at larger land-grant institutions.

Classified salaries have fallen behind inflation by 19% since 1990. These employees are represented by eleven (11) collective bargaining units, and are paid in accordance with the State Pay Plan established by the state legislature. A recent agreement is a beginning step for remedying this situation.

FINANCE

MSU has been faced by significant fiscal challenges in the last decade.  State funding levels have been static, therefore, requiring the University to be much more dependent on tuition and fee revenues.  During this same period of time, the PQO Agreement was made, allowing for a 6.9% increase in faculty salaries over a four (4)-year period.  Operations budgets for colleges and departments, however, remained static or were reduced.

Grants and Contracts (G&C) activities have experienced extraordinary growth over the last decade.  In 1990, sponsored programs totaled $17,000,000.  That figure reached $50,000,000 in 1998.

The MSU Foundation has hired eight (8) campus-based development officers, one (1) for each of the seven (7) colleges plus one (1) for The Libraries.  The role these officers play is to assist colleges in extramural fundraising to help offset declines in operations funding.

PHYSICAL GROWTH

In the past decade the university's physical plant has seen more growth and activity than any other time since World War II.  Over $172,000,000 in capital construction has occurred since 1990, and over 1,000 construction projects have been completed.  Thirty percent (30%) of the projects have been state funded; the remainder have been supported by Auxiliaries, research grants, and private donations.

Two (2) new academic buildings, the Engineering/Physical Sciences Building and the Ag BioSciences Building, were completed.  Total campus building gross square footage has increased 8%, and classroom space has increased 12.5%.  The Centennial Mall project, funded entirely by donations, was begun in 1993 in celebration of MSU's 100th anniversary.  This project was completed in 1998.

The state has not kept up with funding for maintenance and repair of existing facilities.  Currently, accumulated deferred maintenance on the campus exceeds $60,000,000.

CONCLUSION

As stated earlier, all elements of the Self-Study discussed here are addressed in much greater detail within the Self- Study text. This general overview is designed to set the framework for the entire body of work.

Return to Self Study Table of Contents.

View Text-only Version Text-only Updated: 09/29/1999
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