On Monday morning, University of Montana College of Technology Dean Barry Good submitted his plan for future changes and rebranding at the two-year school.
By noon, Good stood side-by-side with John Cech, the state's deputy commissioner for two-year and community college education, and presented some of those proposed changes to City Club Missoula members.
It's likely that by the end of February, a new name for the UM-COT will be presented to the Board of Regents, which will vote on suggested name changes during its March meeting. While that renaming is still in the works, Cech said it's unlikely the new name will start with "community" and end with "college."
Of the 1,200 community colleges in the nation, very few schools in the three-state region of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are actually called "community colleges," he said. In nearby states, they're called Sheridan College, Casper College and College of Northern Idaho.
Part of what the state wants to do is get rid of myths and misperceptions about Montana's colleges of technology once and for all. It's been an uphill battle since these schools left the umbrella of the K-12 public school system to become part of the Montana University System in the 1990s.
They've had a hard time shaking loose of a past identity as vocational technical schools, which were only diploma-granting institutions. Now such schools offer transfer opportunities for incoming freshmen, dual credit programs and work force retraining.
The No. 1 misperception, Cech said, is that community colleges are not real college or that community college credits don't transfer to four-year universities.
"I think we've come a long way in changing the perception," he said. "There's not a quick way to do it."
So, what's in a name? Well, a lot, Cech says.
"College of technology" is too narrowly focused, he said. It doesn't incorporate all the programming that goes on at these schools these days. And it's too close to the old "VoTech" name.
Other than a new name change, the public in upcoming months and years may notice a broader range of general education courses offered at the UM-COT. The college plans to make it easier for students studying one of the hard sciences to transfer to a four-year college by offering classes like chemistry and biology labs.
The school doesn't have the necessary classrooms for labs, but Good says the COT cannot wait to secure funding for a new building before offering these courses. The UM-COT is looking into leasing lab and classroom space at the Montana Technology Enterprise Center, or MonTEC, to teach some of its biology labs and energy technology courses next fall.
Also, UM-COT wants to reach out to more students. The school has a relatively young student body compared to other community colleges nationwide. The average age is 26, and 44 percent of students are 21 or younger.
"We need to reach out to older populations, adults who are underemployed or don't have a GED," Cech said.
About 67,000 Montanans age 16 and older aren't in high school and don't have a high school diploma. Good wants to make it easier for those people - and those who quit college without getting a degree - to come to UM-COT by offering a larger variety of evening and weekend classes and online courses.
"In order to make this happen, there will be some new resources or reallocated resources," Good said. "We're really starting to get some help here. It would also really help if we could get a new facility. It would help the image and the perception of what we do."