For years now, the University of Montana has dealt with falling enrollment and subsequent budget cuts. During a meeting of the faculty senate this week, UM Molecular Genetics Professor Doug Coffin raised the question of whether or not, UM was in the midst of what he described as a “death spiral.”

"The problem is that we get a public perception that we are an institution in decline," said Coffin. "We get into this negative feedback loop where we keep losing students, do more cuts, losing students, do more cuts, and the perception in the public is that we are in that death spiral so consequently they choose another university."

According to Coffin, those responsible for the UM’s budget woes aren’t the faculty, but Governor Bullock and Commissioner of Higher Education Clay Christian.

"We are not here because of the poor quality of our academic program so a lot of these decisions that cause the budget deficits were managerial decisions locking us into a tuition rate that was below cost," Coffin said. "In any business, if you lock into a rate that is below cost you are going to lose money. That was the Board of Regents, the Governor, and the Commissioner who made that decision."

Coffin says that what the University of Montana really needs is a long-term plan, but is skeptical that such a plan can arise under short-term interim leadership.


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