Board of Regents

The Montana Board of Regents meeting at Montana Tech in September 2015.

RENATA BIRKENBUEL, The Montana Standard

This week, the Montana Board of Regents conducts performance reviews of three of its top administrators, although in closed executive sessions.

The reviews of Commissioner Clay Christian, University of Montana President Royce Engstrom, and Montana State University President Waded Cruzado take place Wednesday, according to the regents' agenda.

In their public sessions streamed online Thursday, regents take up a request to spend $2.2 million to remodel the Liberal Arts Building at UM, with $2 million paid for out of the UM Foundation, and $200,000 paid for by UM, according to materials posted online with the agenda.

"They will have the authority, once this is approved, to start moving forward on this now," said Kevin McRae, deputy commissioner of communications for the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education.

The work will include the remodel of an auditorium, student lounge spaces, basement offices, "two to six classrooms on upper floors," an entryway off the Oval, and fire sprinkler systems for code compliance.

"This work follows recent private gifts from the same donor that remodeled six classrooms with new finishes, air conditioning, windows and presentation technology for students and faculty," reads the request. "That renovation along the vertical 'corridor' created two new classrooms per floor for faculty and student use."

The UM Facilities Services director could not be reached Tuesday for the project timeline.

***

This week, regents also will review an enrollment report from the 2016 fiscal year.

Enrollment declined across the Montana University System by 780 students from 2015 to 2016, according to figures in a report for regents. However, enrollment has grown 7 percent, or by 2,500 full-time equivalents, in the past 10 years.

MSU is at the top of the list for growth compared to last year, with 381 more students; UM is at the bottom, with 441 fewer students. 

By the numbers, 10 campuses lost students and five gained since the 2015 fiscal year.

The numbers show that enrollment in two-year colleges plays a large part in the trend across the system, McRae said.

At this meeting, the regents are not taking up compensation for Engstrom. Last November, the board renewed its $500,000 "deferred compensation" plan for Cruzado (a benefit of $50,000 per year for 10 years, to be paid from age 65 to 75, if the president serves five years), and McRae anticipated the regents would consider the same for Engstrom in 2016, possibly 10 or 11 months later, or roughly five years after the president's hire.

The next full board meeting will take place in September; the July meeting is listed as a planning session, and it calls for "emergency consent items only."

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