MSU wild

Montana State University student Nick Kichas keeps his school bag dry with a rain cover on Wednesday.

Montana University System leaders are moving forward with creating one application to streamline admissions for all colleges and universities in the state.

Modeled after the nationwide Common Application program, the portal will allow prospective students to apply to any Montana institution in one fell swoop. It’ll also be a place where students can get general information about financial aid, registration and credit requirements specific to each campus.

The current system requires a student to fill out separate applications for each college or university within the system.

Clayton Christian, commissioner of higher education, told the Board of Regents and campus leaders at a Wednesday meeting in Butte that progress has been made in developing a “career and college access portal.”

“It serves students, and meets students’ and parents’ expectations that Montana institutions work together,” Christian said.

Christian said his office is in the process of looking for a vendor to create the online platform, so a timeline for starting the program has not been set in stone. The portal could be up and running by next fall during college application season, Christian said.

Montana State University President Waded Cruzado said she thinks the common application and information portal is a good idea.

“The more information we can facilitate for our high schoolers and their parents to discuss at the dinner table, the better,” Cruzado said.

Last fall, the Board of Regents discussed the possibility of not only creating a common application, but also a unified recruiting effort. The proposal would have had campuses band together to recruit students to the Montana University System rather than individual institutions, and a number of regents and campus leaders were supportive of the idea.

The goal would have been to recruit prospective students to the Montana institution that was best aligned to a student’s academic goals.

Christian said at the 2018 meeting that it’s problematic for each campus to use state dollars to “compete against each other.” He said the system wasn’t always placing students at the campus where they’d be most successful.

The idea of unified recruiting did not sit well with Cruzado, who said she was worried the proposal would limit student choice. She said the University System should not decide “how high (students) can fly.”

Unified recruiting was not discussed during Wednesday’s meeting, and is not part of plans to create the universal application and information portal, which Cruzado supports.

The nationwide Common Application program was first created in 1975 and to date includes 800 member colleges, mainly private, in 49 states. It aims to promote access and equity in college admissions.

Other states, like California, have universal applications for their colleges and universities already in place.

On top of discussing plans for the Montana University System, the Board of Regents also voted to add a new degree to MSU — a master’s degree in bioengineering. Robert Mokwa, MSU provost, said the degree is in demand in Montana and nationwide

The Board of Regents will vote Thursday to adopt an operating budget for the next year.

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