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Chipping away

When Mayville (N.D.) State University President Gary Hagen took office in June 2006, he inherited more than $1 million in debt spread through the university and its foundation.

When Mayville (N.D.) State University President Gary Hagen took office in June 2006, he inherited more than $1 million in debt spread through the university and its foundation.

In just more than a year, Hagen and other university officials have managed to pay off $250,000 of the school's $900,000 debt and halved the $400,000 in debt accumulated by the MSU Foundation.

The school also was carrying $100,000 in debt from promised scholarships that never materialized. Hagen said that amount has been paid off in full.

The school is well on its way to retiring all of its debt by 2009, he said, and has begun strategic planning for the future.

"We've already started shifting more to a strategic planning mode," Hagen said. "This year was getting our finances under control, but that's our next thrust."

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Mayville managed the debt reduction with a multipronged approach. That included drastically reducing tuition waivers and cutting or not filling several positions in the foundation office, including the foundation's director. Hagen said he plans to have a foundation director in place by 2009, but he's been picking up the slack in the interim.

Hagen also didn't hire an interim replacement for his former job, vice president for academic affairs, when he was named interim president last June. Keith Stenehjem, the school's chief information officer and an early candidate for the presidency, was named interim VPAA after Hagen became the school's full president in February.

Mayville also cut costs by eliminating its men's and women's soccer programs. Hagen said those programs cost the school about $100,000 in tuition waivers because many of the players were imported from abroad.

Now, he said, athletics is bringing in about $250,000 annually after its costs. He said that extra revenue is added to the university's overall operations budget, which gives the school more wiggle room at budgeting time.

Strategic planning

Looking to the future, Hagen said, the school has hired Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management in Boulder, Colo., to research new trends in education and opportunities for expansion.

"He's doing research for us now, and he'll be on campus later this fall," Hagen said, "checking out labor markets and industry trends and manpower needs."

A Mayville futures team will work with Jones' report throughout the year and release a strategic plan toward the end of the school year, Hagen said. He stressed the strategic plan will continue to be revised annually.

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"We're starting the process now, but you can't ever stop strategically planning," Hagen said. "Society changes too fast."

Mayville's traditional academic focus has been on teacher training and, more recently, business administration. Hagen said he sees opportunities to expand the school's early childhood education offerings to help pre-kindergarten teachers comply with new regulations. He said he also sees opportunities outside the school's traditional curriculum, expanding into important new North Dakota industries such as alternative fuels.

"We'll examine all the data and see where the needs are," Hagen said. "The major research universities are concentrating more on developing technology and products, but for more day-to-day employees who need basic science and math knowledge to work in the plants and manage the plants, I think there are opportunities for Mayville there."

Mayville is already planning for the future by increasing its nonsemester-based and distance education course offerings. This summer, that brought the school a 45 percent jump in distance education enrollment and a 38 percent jump in full time summer enrollment.

Hagen said Mayville began dividing its summer course offerings into different length segments three years ago and has seen significant enrollment increases.

"We'll see where our needs are," Hagen said. "We know for sure there will be a change in our whole delivery system. Traditional students really aren't traditional now. Many of them are working 20 to 30 hours a week. Some are married with children and some are single with children, and most of them don't go away to school for four years like I did."

Marks reports on higher education. Reach him at (701) 780-1105, (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or jmarks@gfherald.com .

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