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Supporting Montana’s 6-mill levy to support Montana’s University System is the right thing to do!

At first glance, it may appear odd that the president of Carroll College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Montana, is writing this guest editorial. However, it makes sense for several reasons.

First, Montana is facing a potential workforce crisis. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry has forecast that close to 25 percent of our state’s workforce will retire in the next 10 years. We have approximately 523,000 people working in Montana. We are expecting 131,000 of them to retire over the next 10 years. Doctors, nurses, physical therapists, engineers, accountants, teachers, chemists, computer scientists, small-business owners, social workers, and the list goes on and on.

We need all institutions of higher education in Montana (public and private) functioning at their very best to ensure we have a well-prepared future workforce. The future competitiveness of Montana depends on our ability to ensure our state’s businesses and industry have the workforce they need to remain competitive locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.

Synergies between the Montana University System and the state’s private colleges, such as Carroll College, are strong. Here at Carroll, we enjoy a very strong partnership with the Montana University System. Below are a few examples of that collaboration:

Carroll College and Helena College have developed transfer agreements from the associate to the baccalaureate levels. Both colleges also work together on joint initiatives to provide outreach to veterans who are interested in pursuing their college education.

In addition, Carroll College and Helena College have worked out a cooperative arrangement where Helena College students can live in Carroll residence halls and participate in our food service plans. This is an efficient use of public and private resources as Helena College does not have residence halls.

Each year, the WWAMI medical school program selects and enrolls Carroll pre-med students, with many spending their first year at Montana State University.

Carroll’s chemistry and health sciences majors have excellent track records of being accepted into graduate programs at the University of Montana, including Doctor of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Pharmacy. In addition, Carroll Biology, computer science and nursing majors are often accepted into masters and doctoral programs at Montana State University.

Carroll College has a long-established 3+2 Engineering formal articulation with Montana State University in Bozeman. This partnership allows students to spend their first three years at Carroll and then transfer to Bozeman for their final two years, where they can focus on chemical and biological engineering with pathways to masters and doctoral level programs.

Joint MUS, tribal college and Carroll faculty collaborations: We enjoy ongoing scholarly collaborations with MUS and tribal college faculty, which result in research opportunities for our respective students. One project of particular interest is a research project involving the West Nile virus in Montana.

The 6-mill levy, which has been in effect since 1948, provides approximately $21 million to the Montana University System. These funds are used to ensure the continuation of a strong public higher education system for Montana.

As I noted above, I believe we as a state are standing at the edge of the abyss of a potential workforce crisis. We need to work together and devote both public and private resources to ensure our future is not endangered due to lack of talent, and to give our children the opportunity to succeed.

As one of my favorite authors, Richard Florida, once said, “The Creative Economy is driven by the logic that seeks to fully harness — and no longer waste — human resources and talent.” I urge your vote for the 6-mill levy.

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John E. Cech is president of Carroll College.

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