Clayton Christian, the state's new commissioner of higher education, stressed the importance of a unified Montana University System at a Missoula forum on Wednesday.
Stagnant state support for Montana's colleges and universities means efficiency needs to increase, he said at the University of Montana. That means greater attention to reducing program duplication, helping students graduate faster and approaching the 2013 Legislature with a unified, system-wide message.
The university system's biggest failure in the last session was the lack of a cohesive message, he said. Christian promised that, heading into the next legislative session, faculty, staff and students will promote a unified front.
About 45 people turned out for Wednesday's public forum. Many faculty members touched on the importance of staff, greater investments in university employees and the need to convince Montanans -- especially lawmakers -- of the importance of higher education in the state.