Gov. Doug Burgum’s budget guidelines, released April 18, outline a $50 million cut to state higher education spending. If implemented, this would cut North Dakota University System funding by a third.
Burgum pointed to the State Board of Education and told David Samson from The Forum that North Dakota needs “to have a governance board that allows the universities to be nimble and responsive to what I call demand signals.”
According to Burgum, these signals are economic based indicators that would allow universities to better meet industry needs, and thus bring about a more economically viable system for North Dakotans.
One of the demand signals cited by Burgum was nursing, where according to Burgum, North Dakota is lacking in capable graduates while recent graduates in other areas struggle to find work.
Burgum also cited the North Dakota School of Science, which he said is lacking in extra resources despite students having “six to eight job offers” upon graduating.
The operational cost was also addressed by Burgum, who said that NDUS should look into communicating with other sectors of government and creating public-private partnerships that could bring in external money to the universities.
When it comes to the growing list of buildings that universities have said need maintenance or expansion, Burgum said universities should look at the economic output of the building and examine the cost of maintenance and expansion.
Burgum has been heading a task force to examine these governance changes since Dec. 21, 2017.
The task force “represents a wide range of backgrounds and expertise that will ensure a thoughtful assessment of our nearly 80-year-old governance structure and whether the higher education system is operating at its full potential to prepare students for success in a world undergoing rapid technological disruption,” Burgum said at its inception.
Student body president-elect Grindberg said these cuts would not affect student governments from collecting or allocating student fees. Grindberg added that these cuts would more likely affect tuition and faculty at the university.
The proposed cuts are “nothing to get scared about right now,” Grindberg said. A lot can change when the budget is discussed and voted upon by the legislature, according to Grindberg.
Grindberg is also not worried that Burgum is losing faith in higher education. Grindberg said Burgum is “thinking outside of the box” and looking at ways to innovate education as well as bring about technological changes, such as adding more online classes.
Grindberg is not swayed from his original plan to lobby the state legislature for funding and said that he and his team will stay up to date leading up to and during the 2018 legislative session.