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Dear Campus Community,

We made it to the end of spring semester. I commend everyone for making it through so well. I have just a couple of updates for this week. Watch this week’s Check-in with the Chancellor video. Since it is the end of the semester, this will be my last weekly video. I plan to continue to provide you with updates as needed but it may not be promptly every Friday.
Our Executive Budget committee met for the first time yesterday and we hope to share the outcomes of their meetings in the upcoming month. I also want to address the way our budgets have been managed toward the end of each fiscal year. Previously, many departments have been spending down their remaining budgets at the end of each fiscal year, called the “use it or lose it” approach. I would like to change this.

If you plan to spend down your budget just to spend it, I’d like to instead move those remaining funds to a general account. If a department needs additional funds, then they will receive funds from that general account. I have successfully implemented this system at my previous institutions and would like to change the culture and build trust around how we manage our budgets at MSU Billings. These remaining funds will also assist in reducing the university’s deficit.
Our “Back to Business” task force met yesterday to develop a plan for bringing staff back to campus. By May 6, each department will have devised their own plan for “reentry” as they are unique and know their needs best. Plans will include maintaining proper social distancing and cleanliness guidelines and they will be vetted by administration and health professionals. Departments will also work with their staff to devise a process for a staged return to work to begin May 11. To clarify, we do not want everyone back on campus by May 11, but departments should start to gradually bring employees back into the workplace on May 11 and continue to uphold the safety and social distancing guidelines.

By June 1, all employees who are able, will return to campus. Employees who fall into a high-risk category or who may have other issues precluding a return by June 1, should work with their supervisor and contact Human Resources.
Simultaneously, the task force is also developing processes and protocols for welcoming students and faculty back to campus in the fall. Additional information on this effort will be forthcoming.

We have also fielded a lot of questions from students and parents regarding our fees, since the tuition invoices have recently been disbursed. It is important to understand that the cost of a credit hour for institutions in the Montana University System (including MSU Billings) includes tuition and mandatory fees. The mandatory fees enable each campus to provide a broad range of services to all students, such as facilities, computer labs, transportation, student health, and student government. All students pay the mandatory fees to earn their credit hours, regardless of which services they use or don’t use. In other words, mandatory fees are part of the cost of credit hours provided and are tied to very specific campus-wide expenses that continue to occur.  

Lastly, I know there are many inquiries into the CARES Act funds, especially when the funds will be available and what the student eligibility qualifications are. I was hoping the funds would be available now, however the Department of Education has changed the eligibility criteria, thus delaying the disbursement of funds. Please know I am working on this diligently as there are many who desperately need financial relief. I will continue to keep you updated.

I look forward to seeing everyone back on campus soon.
Be well,
Office of the Chancellor
McMullen Hall, Room 207