Recently, Bill Couette sent a letter to MnSCU Chancellor Steve Rosenstone. Mr. Couette is a SCSU graduate in Aviation. He’s now the VP of Administration for the Airline Pilots Association, International, aka ALPA. Here’s Chancellor Rosenstone’s reply to Mr. Couette:
Dear Mr. Couette,
Thank you for your email regarding the aviation program at St. Cloud State University.
I am very familiar with Jeff Johnson’s activities regarding SCSU’s fall 2010 decision to discontinue the aviation program. A number of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leaders, both at SCSU and the system office, have addressed Mr. Johnson’s concerns on multiple occasions. It may be helpful to provide you with additional background information related to the aviation program closure at SCSU.
A steep decline in state financial support (a 48% reduction between 1999 and 2011) for Minnesota’s public colleges and universities, necessitated significant budget reductions for fiscal year 2012 at SCSU and Minnesota’s other public colleges and universities. To help address the budget situation at its campus, SCSU undertook an extensive review of all of its academic programs, which included consultation with various internal and external constituents. As part of the review of the aviation program, this included meetings with several aviation industry representatives.
As a result of its review process, SCSU identified 32 programs for closure or suspension, including aviation. One factor in the aviation decision was a 60% decline in the number of aviation program degrees awarded (from 52 in 2002 to 21 in 2010), which included an 89% decline in aviation majors with a concentration in professional flight (from 18 in 2002 to 2 in 2010). The cost structure of the aviation program was also a concern. Budget calculations indicated that in FY2010, expenditures for the program exceeded revenue by approximately $250,000. Feedback from industry representatives and the accrediting body for the aviation program indicated that an additional investment of approximately $500,000 would be required to provide the degree program in the future. The continued availability of aviation education programs at other higher education institutions in the region, including Minnesota State University, Mankato, Lake Superior College, Duluth, Northland Community and Technical College, Thief River Falls, and Minneapolis Community and Technical College, was also a key consideration.
In the fall of 2011, Mr. Johnson appealed the university’s decision to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system office. Under the leadership of our Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, the office reviewed SCSU’s decision and the process used in making the decision. This review found that the university conducted required and appropriate consultations and assessments that informed its decisions, and found no grounds upon which to question or overturn the university’s decision.
The university is committed to maintaining accreditation of the aviation program through the end of the 2013-2014 academic year and serving the remaining students with the highest-quality program.
I understand and appreciate your input regarding the aviation program at SCSU. I want you to know that decisions to close or suspend programs, while necessary, are never easy and are taken seriously by me, our Board of Trustees and by the presidents of our colleges and universities.
Steven J. Rosenstone
Chancellor, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities
30 7th St. E. | Suite 350 | St. Paul, MN 55101
Several things jump out at me as outright spin. Here’s one example:
The cost structure of the aviation program was also a concern. Budget calculations indicated that in FY2010, expenditures for the program exceeded revenue by approximately $250,000. Feedback from industry representatives and the accrediting body for the aviation program indicated that an additional investment of approximately $500,000 would be required to provide the degree program in the future.
The costs from the SCSU General Fund paid the salaries and benefits for its faculty and staff. That’s it. The simulators were purchased with student fees. The airplanes were paid for by Wright Aero, a small business located at the St. Cloud Regional Airport.
It’s disgraceful that President Potter used this spin to rationalize getting rid of Aviation. Here’s more spin:
Under the leadership of our Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs, the office reviewed SCSU’s decision and the process used in making the decision. This review found that the university conducted required and appropriate consultations and assessments that informed its decisions, and found no grounds upon which to question or overturn the university’s decision.
I wouldn’t say that the “Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs” supplied leadership. I’ve written that he supplied the whitewash. Here’s Mr. Litecky’s response for his supposedly extensive review:
My staff and I remain persuaded that the university conducted required and appropriate consultations and assessments that informed its decisions.
Unfortunately for Chancellor Rosenstone, being “persuaded” isn’t the standard required by MnSCU policy. Here’s part of the applicable MnSCU policy regarding closing programs:
The academic program closure application must be documented by information, as applicable, regarding
1.academic program need,
2.student enrollment trends,
3.employment of graduates,
4.the financial circumstances affecting the academic program, system college or university,
5.the plan to accommodate students currently enrolled in the academic program,
6.impact on faculty and support staff,
7.consultation with appropriate constituent groups including students, faculty and community,
With a worldwide pilot shortage, it’s impossible for MnSCU or St. Cloud State to document that the academic need for aviation didn’t exist. Also, documentation doesn’t exist, or least wasn’t referenced by Mr. Litecky, that alternatives to closure were considered. Finally, consultation with students and faculty didn’t happen. Here’s the definition of consultation:
a meeting for deliberation, discussion
Prior to his December 10, 2010 announcement that he was closing the Aviation program, he didn’t meet with students or Aviation faculty. That’s why I’m using the word announcement. Finally, there isn’t documentation proving that staff reductions or alternatives to closing the program were considered.
In short, the allegedly extensive review of the decision to close the Aviation program at St. Cloud State didn’t use MnSCU’s well-thought-out procedure for closing programs.
Despite the potential growth of the Aviation program, President Potter decided that Aviation would be shut. Then MnSCU rubberstamped President Potter’s decision. More important than not following MnSCU procedure is the fact that President Potter said no to the possibility of a reinvigorated Aviation program with increasing Aviation program enrollments.
At a time when SCSU’s enrollment is plummeting, shouldn’t President Potter welcome the opportunity to increase enrollment? At minimum, shouldn’t Chancellor Rosenstone be telling President Potter that he needs to turn SCSU’s enrollment around?