When President Potter’s legacy solidifies, one of his biggest failures will be closing the Aviation program. This article, written years after the fact, verifies the foolishness of that decision.

The article starts by talking about a major problem, saying “As baby boomers gear up for retirement it has left the aviation industry struggling to replace positions quickly. Boeing, for example, is estimating that over the next 20 years, North America will need about 117,000 more pilots.” Next, it talks about a possible solution to this major problem, saying “Most recently, Rochester Community and Technical College announced they are looking at starting an Aviation Pilot Education Program. If the program is approved, the college says it will be designed for students to get an associate’s degree in aviation and then transfer to Minnesota State University, Mankato to finish their bachelor’s degree. Here in St. Cloud, St. Cloud State University discontinued their aviation program in 2011. The last students graduated from the program in 2014. As for the future, St. Cloud State says they are not considering bringing back the program leaving just one option for Central Minnesota students who wish to soar the sky, Wright Aero.”

Shutting down the Aviation program was stupid, both in the long- and short-term. The Aviation program was one of St. Cloud State’s anchor programs but it didn’t fit President Potter’s or Dean DeGroote’s blueprint for the future. The question isn’t whether shutting the program down was the right thing to do. The question is why the leadership team isn’t considering re-instating a successful program.

As I wrote back then, the program had a significant following. Also, the University’s costs associated with it were minimal. The simulator, for instance, was bought with student fees. When Aviation shut down, the flight simulator was sold; the cash went into the University’s general fund. (In light of the University’s ongoing financial difficulties, that isn’t surprising.)

Before the St. Cloud State University program was discontinued, on average Mavencamp says about 200 students were learning through Wright Aero. If a program through either institution was to start up again, Mavencamp thinks it would take about 5-10 years to get it to the successful point of the former St. Cloud State program.

I don’t doubt Mavencamp’s figures if the program were to be rebuilt to what it used to be. That being said, it would be foolish to not expand the Aviation program to include drone training and aerial firefighting. Those disciplines are growing new opportunities. With St. Cloud State’s declining enrollments and chronic deficits, why shouldn’t the program be re-opened and expanded?

The job opportunities in both those new disciplines are high, with jobs being virtually guaranteed upon graduation. I’ll ask the previously unasked question: why was the Aviation program shut down? Apparently, the people in charge were allergic to success.

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2 Responses to “President Potter’s legacy”

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Great post, Gary! One of my all time favorites is the aviation gospel according to President Potter. Videos do a great job in revealing the truth. Killing the 10th largest program was really stupid. Lying about it was even worse.

  • Crimson Trace says:

    Great quote:

    At Meet and Confer on March 28, 2013 between the Administration and Faculty Association, President Potter said that “to admit a mistake would make his leadership team look weak.” He was referring to the closure of SCSU’s accredited Aviation Program and not Coborn’s Plaza. Most of us expect that our leaders continuously rethink their decisions in light of new information and, when warranted make a correction—even if it means admitting a mistake. I kind of like the idea of a leader who admits that they just might be wrong every now and then. To me, it doesn’t make them look weak; it makes them look like a true leader.

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