University of Montana Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz appeared on Talk Back this week to talk about several issues, including the response to COVID-19 and the school’s budget.

Kuntz said the welfare of the students was paramount to the school’s administration.

“Really there was one driving force behind every decision that was that was made and that was to put the student's needs at the center of everything,” said Kuntz. “We decided early on that we wanted the students to learn in person, but to also have that flexibility that if a student had to care for somebody who was sick back home, or had to go back home halfway through the semester if they were infected, that we'd have that flexibility. So we have the in person modality, the remote modality and even a hybrid of both in some courses.”

Kuntz then addressed the subject of the UM budget, and how various colleges and majors will be funded going forward, responding to student demand.

“We're changing how we're going to allocate resources,” he said. “These are resources that we get from the state via taxpayer money, as well as the tuition dollars that students pay. Right now we're going to switch to the budget allocation model that prioritizes student credit hours. S, it’s about how many students are enrolled in these colleges and what their courses are, the number of majors offered by the college, and the research activity. When we talk about colleges, there are nine colleges that make up the University of Montana.

Kuntz said the funds will be directed toward the courses that are attracting the most students.

“It's really going to be driven by one thing and that's the student interests and needs,” he said.  The needs and interests change as they start studying business, forestry, health sciences and more, which is what we've seen over the last 10 years, well, that money has to come from somewhere, and so that pie shifts. In terms of the College of Humanities and Sciences, it's still going to be by far the largest college at the University of Montana.”

Kuntz said the College of Humanities and Sciences will still be well funded, but other colleges are drawing more students.

“It's really a rich and diverse college, but the fact of the matter is that enrollment in that college has slipped over 40% over the past 10 years while we've seen enrollment growth at the College of Forestry, and in the College of Health, so with this new budget model, it'll make sure that going forward rather than having these arbitrary decisions being made by administrators, where the students are flowing, based on the student credit hours, number of majors and the research activity, that's where the dollars will go.”

Recently there have been protests on campus over cuts to the College of Humanities and Sciences, as well as radio appearances by prominent UM professors on KGVO.