Is NDSU in Danger Following Budget Cuts?

Midwestern universities have seen a decline in budget and some of their best faculty according to an article published in The Atlantic by Jon Marcus.

The article brought up issues like the decline of funding because it’s failing to keep up with inflation and the Trump administration wants to slash the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) by billions more.

While this cut will have a national effect, public universities will take the biggest hit, especially those in the Midwest. Unfortunately, Midwestern universities also historically produce the most important research.

This can pose a problem as research universities in this region can often fuel and diversify the local and state economy and, according to North Dakota State Provost Beth Ingram, these universities have been backbones of these communities for years.

The cuts that have been and may still be made to these universities mean no pensions and no tenure for some staff members, which can drive some of the best staff from these public universities to ones that better fit their wants and needs. Professors that would otherwise be teaching at Midwestern research universities, would look for greener pastures.

While this wont pose much of a threat to the major and more developed universities with the best reputations that will be able to weather the storm, those that don’t rank as highly risk going under. Some of them already have.

These universities with lower reputations may see a decrease in funding, enrollment and research produced. This impact will not only reach the universities and their students, but the local, statewide and potentially national and global environment as well.

The history of these universities reaches back to the Morrill Act, which aimed toward helping these universities become the best in the world. Now, we are watching the downfall of the same universities.

While this downfall would happen over the next 10 years, the repair from the damage would take 30 years.

While the decline was present before the Trump administration was in charge, that administration does make it worse as it’s looking to further cut the budget for higher education.

The cut put forth by the Trump administration takes up a small section of the proposed tax bill, Ingram said.

As for NDSU, this past graduation year saw a 3 percent increase in graduation rates, and enrollment for this academic year has also gone up. This provides structural support to NDSU.

However, NDSU has faced budget cuts of its own, but instead of across the board budget cuts, NDSU got strategic. Departments were told to get rid of the things they decided they could do without. “Nothing is expendable,” Ingram said. So the decision was left up to departments.

This strategic approach aimed to preserve the academic integrity of NDSU.

As a result of the 17 percent budget cut, NDSU created the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP). This program looked at age and years of service of its applicants and allowed for early retirement after applications were peer reviewed.

Bruce Bollinger, vice president of Finance and Administration, noted NDSU has been fortunate as the North Dakota legislature has never tried to severely cut funding for higher education and a change to the budget warrants working through it because it will shift as time goes on, and to not get stuck.

While budget cuts for Midwestern colleges threaten the integrity of education and the regional economy, Ingram does not believe that NDSU is threatened.

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