Montana’s colleges of technology have new, expanded mission statements, and with the help of the Lumina Foundation’s College!NOW program, Montana’s Board of Regents is asking them to find ways to look and feel more like comprehensive community colleges.
Montana’s Board of Regents is holding “listening sessions” with Montana’s five colleges of technology to rebrand and rename the growing institutions to better fit their current offerings. The Board of Regents adopted a new mission statement for Montana’s colleges of technology to better describe what their standard of service should be, and the schools have 25 months to better reflect the mission. That was the focus of Monday evening’s meeting at the school.
Dr. John Cech, deputy commissioner for two-year and community colleges for the Montana University System, said it’s important for the community to realize Helena’s COT has grown into more than just a vocational-technical school. Cech said the Lumina Foundation is funding $1.77 million for expenses, including meetings like this one, curriculum development and enhancement, and bringing in guests to speak at the schools. Montana is one of seven states to receive help from the College!NOW program.
Cech said UM-Helena offers associate’s degrees that can be transferred to other four-year colleges within the state, but not all of Montana’s COTs are there yet.
“This college is doing a great job,” he said.
He presented statistics about the upcoming need for educated individuals in the workforce. He said a Georgetown study discovered that 63 percent of jobs by 2018 will require at least some college. Additionally, by 2025, there will be a 13.5 percent gap between the available educated workforce and the number of jobs that require some post-secondary education. He also showed research that indicated only 27 percent of Montana’s undergraduate work is done at two-year colleges. The national average, according to the study, was at about 53 percent.
Daniel Bingham, The University of Montana-Helena College of Technology’s dean, said in the past 10 years, the COT has experienced growth of 100 percent. UM-Helena now has 1,679 people enrolled, he said.
“It really speaks to a need,” Bingham said.
Cech echoed that statement by saying colleges of technology are the fastest growing education opportunities in Montana.
Though Cech said renaming the school is a step toward redefining two-year colleges’ identities, and that the COT has outgrown the name, many attendees had doubts. After small group discussions, many UM-Helena staff members voiced concerns about changing the name of the institution again. Many said it would confuse the public and lose some of the identity the institution has built since the last name change. “I’m afraid it’ll look like we’re having an identity crisis,” one man said.
Another man said rebranding may not be what UM-Helena needs. He said many people think of the COT as a trade school, and there isn’t a need to try to take the community’s focus away from that. Another attendee said keeping a “tech” and two-year emphasis was important for UM-Helena’s future.
Reporter Piper Haugan: 447-4075 or email@example.com