Yesterday, I attended the St. Cloud Airport Commission meeting. I was disappointed with what I learned about the ramifications of closing SCSU’s Aviation Department.

One thing that disappointed me was the fact that there will be a very real need to replace a ton of pilots within the next 2-3 years, perhaps as many as 1,500 in that time period. That’s a big shortage. It’s also a great opportunity to place SCSU students into a great career.

Another thing that was discussed was the economic impact a regional air carrier would have on St. Cloud’s economy. Before yesterday, I didn’t know the amount of small businesses located at the airport. I didn’t know that the air traffic control tower was privately run. I didn’t know that the airplanes that SCSU Aviation students use for training are owned by a small business. I didn’t know that the people who own the airplanes also own another small business that does maintenance/mechanical work on planes.

If the Aviation Department is shut down, these small businesses don’t have a reason for staying open. What’s worse is that this will make it next to impossible to attract another regional airline to St. Cloud. After all the work that various individuals have invested in this effort, it would be a shame to see this opportunity pass St. Cloud by.

Another thing that was discussed was the argument that the Aviation Department costs too much to operate. With small businesses actually buying and maintaining the airplanes, and with students paying for airtime rental, another major cost is the flight simulators.

The thing with those simulators is that they’ve been paid for for years. Yes, they’re owned by SCSU but, since they’re paid for, they aren’t costing SCSU anything anymore.

Another major cost to the program, as with all programs, are the teachers. It seems to me that that cost is highly controllable. Why shut down the entire department when other solutions are available, especially when the alternative doesn’t negatively impact St. Cloud’s economy?

Also discussed was how the decision was reached. In the commission’s opinion, the public’s input was limited at best. The commission is putting a resolution that a) talks about the economic impact closing the department down will have on St. Cloud’s economic development and b) will call for a more transparent, public process.

Though it wasn’t said, the implication was that they think the process should start over.

Finally, there is the worry that students will be priced out of an aviation education if the North Dakota aviation program is the only program left standing. The upside is they have a Cadillac program. The downside is that is it has a Cadillac pricetag on it.

At first, my writing about the Aviation Department was about higher ed reform. The more I dug into it, though, the more it’s about the quality of SCSU’s decisionmaking and the process used to reach their decision.

Perhaps the conclusion would’ve been significantly different had the process included more public input. According to their own website, SCSU promises to maintain “a commitment to meeting the needs of our community” and to “Institutionalize our commitment to civic and community engagement.”

How did the decision to eliminate the Aviation Department live up to their stated goals?

Only after SCSU starts living up to its stated goals can we be certain that SCSU meant what it said in its Strategic Action Plan. If it doesn’t live up to that standard, people should think that they’re empty words on a page.

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4 Responses to “Airport Commission Meeting Notes”

  • Darlene Thompson says:

    I am extremely pleased to see your article. SCSU has not followed a proper process in their decision to shut down the aviation department, has shown no concern at all for the impact to our community and those in the vicinity, and has decided instead to keep other departments open for just a few students. And those are studies that will not help students get jobs. You made great points on every issue, and it’s time for the community to put pressure on SCSU to re-do this whole process! They are dealing with our tax money, and it’s time for the people to hold them accountable. I hope everyone who reads your article contacts President Potter and whoever else made these decisions!

  • Jackie Marvel says:

    Imagine that. Draconian budget cuts OF public institutions actually result in draconian budget cuts AT public institutions. Maybe you should have thought better of your support for eliminating public institutions before doing your homework on the economic benefits that public investment in higher education has on local and state economies. This is the direct result of policies YOU and your ilk support. And there’s much more to come, thanks to you and your Tea Party compadres. Just wait for the 16% budget cuts for all MN universities that the Republicans just recommended at the legislature. They aren’t just going to ground airplanes. They are going to take apart public higher education. Go ahead and try to pay yourself for a $50K plus per year private college without any help from the government. See how that works for you.

  • Gary Gross says:

    If you insist on maintaining the failing status quo models because the unions won’t let you vote for changes that Higher Ed institutions need, then you’ll eventually get trapped in impossible situations. If, however, you start thinking in terms of whether there’s a better model that a) costs less, b) shoves MnSCU into the 21st Century & c) transforms the Higher Ed system, you don’t get trapped in impossible situations.

    The draconian cuts could be eliminated with reforms that the unions won’t accept. THAT’S REALITY!!! You think in terms of everything having to stay the same. That’s a terrible premise, one that should be discarded ASAP. You won’t because it’s easier for you to criticize people rather than coming up with a new thought that actually improves life.

    No wonder why life as a liberal is so miserable. Screw your head on straight. Think outside the box for once in your life. Or stick with the status quo & be miserable the rest of your life.

    It’s your choice.

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