MSU-Northern is proud to be ranked the #1 school in Montana for economic mobility, and #15 in the nation. A significant number of Northern’s graduates start college in the bottom 20 percent of income distribution, and go on to reach the top 20 percent. MSU-Northern graduates also have better workforce outcomes right out of college than graduates from other four-year colleges in the state. Northern provides an Education that Works.
Even so, over the past five years MSU-Northern has experienced a decline in enrollment, a trend that is consistent with enrollment trends in higher education across the nation. The drop in Montana is attributed in part to a drop in high school enrollment across the state, which has been on a decline for the past five years and is not projected to increase until 2025.
This decline has created significant challenges for the university. For each year that enrollment has remained low, the campus has striven to maintain its quality programs and facilities with less funding, fewer staff, and even fewer faculty.
MSU-Northern is determined to overcome these trends. We are focused on educating a broader pool of prospective students about the value of the Northern degree, especially those who may not consider themselves “college ready.” The university is also committed to helping students complete college by providing excellent support services across the entire campus.
Objective 1: Market: Widely communicate the university brand and value
Objective 2: Recruit: Maximize the capacity of MSU-Northern’s programs
Objective 3: Retain: Provide student centered services across campus
Objective 4: Complete: Support students through program
The staff and faculty of MSU-Northern work tirelessly to ensure that every program we offer provides value to our students. That commitment pays off: 100% of MSUN graduates are placed in their field, and the majority in Montana. On average, MSUN graduates out-earn graduates of all other Montana four-year institutions in their first year out of college.
One way MSUN ensures quality is by continually seeking rigorous outside input from accrediting bodies and the industries that employ our graduates. MSUN is proud to have university accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), as well as program accreditations including Nursing (ACEN), Education (BPE), and Civil Engineering (ABET). Going forward, the university also intends to expand its program review process by inviting external reviewers to compare each MSUN program to others being offered all across the country.
Due to the high demand for MSUN’s graduates, the university is also committed to getting more students to graduation in a timely manner. MSUN will be diligently focused on improved advising and developing four-year plans that students can confidently follow to graduate on time.
Objective 1: Restructure general education and remedial offerings in order to meet programmatic
needs every semester (Practical)
Objective 2: Provide quality educational spaces (Quality)
Objective 3: Invest in well-trained faculty
Objective 4: Systematically review academic programs for relevance, student enrichment, and meeting industry expectations
Objective 5: Students graduate in a time appropriate to their degree (Timely)
Since 1929. MSU-Northern has been providing access to higher education for students in northern Montana. Over the last several decades, the university’s reach has expanded, and MSUN now attracts a significant number of out of state students as well. These changing demographics make it imperative that MSUN stays focused on providing all students with both an Education that Works and a place to belong.
To that end, MSUN has made significant progress in positioning the university to serve the four Native American reservations within its service area. The Little River Institute (LRI) was launched at MSU-Northern in 2015, designed to increase American Indian retention and program completion rates by correcting cultural misalignment through increased academic and social engagement opportunities while creating a sense of place and community that is culturally responsive. In the first two years, MSUN has already seen double-digit increases in fall to fall retention 2016 (24%) and 2017 (16%).
LRI has identified the best practices that have resulted in these astounding success rates. MSU-Northern will work to implement those practices across the entire university to ensure that every students can identify Northern as a place to belong.
Objective 1: Students report that they are engaged in campus life (Engagement Score)
Objective 2: Students are satisfied with auxiliary services, facilities and staff (Satisfaction Score)
Objective 3: Northern's environment is inclusive of diverse cultures (Diversity Score)
MSU-Northern has a long, proud history of developing industry partnerships that stand the test of time. MSUN actively engages industry leaders on program advisory boards, which directly correlates to robust curriculum and healthy retention rates. These same engaged industry members have provided testimony to the Montana legislature on the value of MSUN’s programs, made significant financial and equipment contributions, and have even partnered with MSUN to recruit new students.
MSU-Northern is focused on expanding these best practices that have been implemented primarily by our signature programs and applying them across the entire university. Each program will have an established and active advisory board with representation from across the region.
MSU-Northern will also seek to more actively engage with our alumni population by focusing on “affinity groups,” based around how they engaged with the university as a student. Reunions and events for clubs, athletic teams, and programs will be modeled after the highly successful football reunion organized by the MSUN Alumni Foundation over Homecoming in 2018.
These efforts will be instrumental in building a culture that demonstrates and celebrates success at MSU-Northern.
Objective 1: Ensure relevancy in all academic programs by increasing meaningful industry engagement
Objective 2: Graduates are prepared to enter the workforce in a field related to their degree
Objective 3: Develop more opportunities for engagement on-campus, off campus, and online