The Montana Board of Regents wrapped up a meeting this week in Dillon, and, according to Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education, Kevin McRae, they unanimously commended University of Montana President Royce Engstrom for his efforts to bring expenses in line with enrollment.

The Board of Regents, Chairman Paul Tuss, Vice Chair Fran Albrecht, Martha Sheehy, Paul Nystuen, Casey Lozar, William Johnstone, and student regent Asa Hohman, discussed a number of items, including budget issues on all the state’s campuses.

McRae said the regents expressed their confidence in Engstrom.

“All of the regents did, to a person, at this meeting,” Mcrae said. “His leadership of the university was commended. They recognized that it is difficult to lead in choppy waters, in fact, we have a number of campus executives who are leading through choppy waters.”

In fact, McRae said, increasing enrollment in itself is not the goal.

“The Montana University System does not view enrollment as an outcome or an end goal,” McRae said. “If enrollment is the sole statistic that we worry about, we will just then be encouraging campuses to play games with enrollment, and spend a lot of state and tuition money chasing after the same Montana high school students, and the enrollment problems will then just be moving around the system from year to year.”

McRae continued;

“What is really important is aligning expenses to revenue, and in some cases that involves reducing the number of programs and employees. We hear from Missoula, that the definition of the problem is enrollment itself. But, if you are offering the right academic programs that are meeting contemporary demand, and are sustainable, enrollment will then be a byproduct that will take care of itself.”

McRae said the regents also expressed frustration that people in Missoula were not appreciating the difficult situation Engstrom is facing, and the steps he has taken to make changes that will bring positive results.

“The Board of Regents is very supportive of President Engstrom’s leadership, and, in fact, was very vocal at this last meeting. Some expressed frustration that the positive stories and the positive aspects at the university and his leadership are not coming across publicly well enough.”

McRae said Engstrom invited members of the faculty and the student senate to Dillon and meet with the regents so their views could be heard. Ultimately, McRae said, those who have already made up their minds about Engstrom don’t want to hear the positive aspects of his efforts.

“If you speak to three or four faculty members who I can name, you’ll get a different story,” he continued. “It just comes down to whether you have an open mind or if you’ve already made up your mind. Those who have an open mind are strongly supportive of President Engstrom, in terms of his chain of command and the commissioner and the board that employs him.”

It was reported here on KGVO last week, that spring enrollment is down from the previous year, especially for incoming freshmen, as well as out of state and international students.