ST. CLOUD, Minn. (WCCO) — A decision to close the aviation program at St. Cloud State University is not sitting well with some in that community. The flight school is among 32 programs eliminated over the last two years as a result of the university’s cost-cutting initiative.

For the last three years, Logan Vold has developed his skills as a pilot at the aviation program.

“I never got my confidence, as a pilot, until I came to SCSU (St. Cloud State University) and got into the real world of flying,” Vold said.

Now set to graduate, Vold should be focused on his future. Instead, he’s thinking of other potential pilots.

“It’s upsetting because future generations are losing that ability for aviation in Minnesota,” Vold said.

The aviation department is set to close in 2014, a victim of budget cuts as universities across the state receive less funding.

Dr. Jeff Johnson, an instructor at the SCSU flight school, said the implications of the department’s closure could be significant.
Johnson is among a group of aviation enthusiasts who believe the program is worth saving. That’s why he and others have been fighting for months, trying to get the university to reconsider.

“We’re increasing public awareness that this is a real serious issue for, not only for university, but also for city of St. Cloud and the state,” Johnson said.

The group’s biggest concern regards the way in which the decision was made. Some feel the process didn’t allow enough transparency.

The school’s president, Earl Potter III, thinks differently.

“It’s been thoroughly reviewed at every level and the chancellor (and our board) has affirmed the decision we made,” he said.

Potter says the university is focusing its future on science, technology and manufacturing: grounding aviation for good.

“It is not a program that’s central to our mission,” Potter said.

There are about 150 students in the program, but Potter said that enrollment has been on the decline. The students still in the program will be able to finish their studies; the school just hasn’t accepted new students over the last two years.

Supporters of the program argue shutting down the flights school is bad timing, since there is a need for trained pilots across the country.