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Montana State University Billings chancellor candidate Dan Edelman said Wednesday he could see the number of students at the university grow by more than a third in the near-term.

“I believe it's sustainable to have a goal of, in five years, an enrollment of 6,000 here,” he said.

The enrollment goal would be a bold turnaround. The number of students at MSUB and City College combined was just more than 5,000 in the fall of 2012 compared to 4,400 just last fall. 

Edelman visited MSUB on Wednesday as one of four candidates for the school's open chancellor position. He spoke at a morning media meeting and during an afternoon forum.

He's the vice president of administration and chief financial officer at the University of North Texas at Dallas. UNT-Dallas as a whole is similar in size to MSUB.

His tenure at the south Dallas university — about four years — encompassed the notable rise of its College of Law.

The plan was to create a more affordable law degree at what became Dallas' first public law school. The first class of law students started in 2014.

“It was a gamble," Edelman said. "We didn’t know how many students we’d have.”

Despite a struggle for provisional accreditation and financial problems in the UNT system, the law school is at capacity enrollment.

Edelman headed the finance department for a university that changed the traditional undergraduate school model a bit to meet financial goals. One of those strategies was to rely on assistant professors and lecturers and less on tenure-track faculty members.

“Part of that is budgetary driven," he said. "We didn’t have the resources to hire the tenure track folks that we need to. As we grow and expand, accrediting bodies require that we do have more tenure-track in some of these programs.”

Overall, enrollment at UNT-Dallas has increased. In tackling retention, Edelman said they began block-scheduling first-year students. That meant putting groups of students together and keeping them together in class scheduling.

During the afternoon forum, Edelman said one of his goals would be investment in tenure-track faculty members. He also said that a balance must be struck on research and teaching faculty, though he said MSUB could support both.

Edelman said that at MSUB, he'd want to examine program plans, as well as the university's master strategic plan. MSUB's "FutureU" program assembled in 2012 with an expiration date of 2018. He said he'd stick around to see it happen.

"This is going to be my last institution," he said. "And I want to end here successfully years and years from now."

Two more candidates for the MSUB chancellor position will visit campus on Thursday and Friday.


General Assignment Reporter

Reporter for The Billings Gazette.