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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Aviation program sees an opening

The Minnesota State Mankato aviation program prevails as other state universities make the cut.

Robb Murray, Mankato Free Press, 5-12-12

One state university’s loss is another one’s gain. Right? Perhaps not.

When St. Cloud State University decided to cut its aviation program, the natu­ral reaction for folks familiar with the Minnesota State Colleges and University sys­tem would be to wonder if students who would have chosen SCSU might now choose Minnesota State University.

After SCSU, Minnesota State is the largest universi­ty in the system. The two aviation programs, while similar, had slightly differ­ent specialties.

But Tom Peterson, a fac­ulty member at MSU, said an exodus to Mankato did­n’t occur.

“I would have expected that influx to occur quicker than it did,” Peterson said.

“Most of them will probably be able to finish in St. Cloud.”

As for prospective stu­dents, Peterson said the bat­tle for them already has begun. And in MSU’s case, the battle has been more nuanced than merely getting the word out and hoping students come.

Peterson says they’re still hearing from students who assume MSU closed their program years ago.

Just as SCSU did, MSU at one time had decided to eliminate its aviation pro­gram. Its costly nature com­bined with a history filled with instability and contro­versy led to aviation being among the programs purged as the college sought to deal with a massive budget shortfall.

But MSU’s program got a reprieve as business leaders rallied and committed enough money to keep it around, at least for a few more years. Plus, a promis­ing deal to bring Chinese aviation students to MSU brought additional opti­mism to the university about the aviation program’s vitality. (The China deal is on hold, for now.) Peterson said as they went around the region, many prospective students had heard about the pro­gram being slated for elimi­nation. Not nearly as many, however, had heard of the reprieve.

MSU probably will pick up some students who may have gone to SCSU but had to choose another school because the program was cut. MSU officials are hop­ing that choice will be MSU. Peterson said they’ve been trying to build up the pro­gram’s image and reputation through quality curriculum and instruction, as well as planes and other equip­ment.

“Most students, when they go to other schools, and then they come and see us, we pick up most of those students,” he said.

Another factor looming large in the world of avia­tion education is the coming surplus of jobs. Baby boomers are retiring, and the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots is 65.

Peterson said that between the airlines and package delivery companies, there will be nearly 40,000 American pilots retiring in the next few years.

“It’s going to be a great job market,” Peterson said.

MSU hopes to oblige.

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