Friday, November 19, 2010
This fall St. Cloud State launched two projects destined to alter the university’s future inside and out: a major reorganization plan to make us a more effective, responsive place of learning for students and a new Welcome Center to make us a more viable, inviting resource for the community. Both initiatives are unprecedented, visionary approaches to challenges and opportunities both current and anticipated.
The new Welcome Center at Coborn Plaza – the University’s new accessible “front door” – is a superb example of the kind of public/private partnership that is the future for a community that’s becoming a true “university town.” University offices in the Welcome Center include the Corporate Education and Outreach Component of Continuing Studies – which serves 50,000 people on and off campus annually – the Small Business Development Center and new microloan program to assist individuals with achieving their entrepreneurial dreams, Admissions, an exhibit area called The Intersection that promises to have appeal to the public and the University Husky Store. These are facilities that interface with the campus and offer access, assistance and support.
Two high-tech classrooms and meeting rooms are available for use by community organizations with a connection to St. Cloud State and for the general public. With this place – this symbol of change and commitment to a collective vision – we are “turning the university inside out” and letting the world know what we have to offer.
What we have to offer community residents and our students is a University that is on its way to being leaner and more efficient in how and what it delivers to traditional and nontraditional students.
Reorganization conversations – the outgrowth of campus-wide strategic planning and strategic program appraisal – were accelerated by state mandated demands for deep budget cuts. The necessity to balance the budget with significantly less state funding and without the option of commensurate tuition increases intensified the complexity of these discussions. Faculty and staff met the challenge and carried out a fair and open process that led to recommendations that will shape the future of our university ... proving that we have a solid crew and sound ship to carry us through rough seas.
Beginning with academics, the University has cut 10 percent of its budget in the past three years and prepared for another 10 percent in reductions, totaling $14 million, in the next state budget biennium. Following a strategic program appraisal the University has cut 29 major, minor and graduate programs in order to preserve the rigor and relevance of St. Cloud State academics. During the current and following years the University will have eliminated 119 faculty lines as well as two senior administrative positions through reorganization in the Office of Academic Affairs. Through appraisal of support and service staff further decisions will be made to streamline offices while continuing to serve all constituencies.
It has been inevitable also that reorganization would extend to Husky athletics – to make hard decisions that will help build a sustainable athletics program and help the University meet its objective to provide the best possible experience for the largest number of student athletes that the university can afford. While eliminating football was put on the table as a possible way to help balance a $500,000 shortfall in the athletics budget, no decision will be made until St. Cloud State conducts a thorough conversation with its constituents and explores a variety of budget-cutting scenarios.
Reorganization has brought us to difficult decisions that we do not like being forced to make, but we must be clear about the need to secure St. Cloud State’s future and our ability to do the job our students, the community and the state expects us to do. The new Welcome Center will play a big part in helping us provide the services and the amenities that will help us achieve these goals.
Earl H. Potter III, President