Governmental Relations and Intercollegiate Affairs commissioners pitched student affordability and infrastructure improvement to North Dakota officials Wednesday afternoon.
GRIA Executive Commissioner Aaron Weber and Assistant Executive Megan Matejcek spoke on behalf of student government to a crowd of 40, including North Dakota University System Interim Councilor Larry Skogen and NDSU President Dean Bresciani.
The presentation took place during NDSU’s Higher Education Day, which included a luncheon, the presentation and a campus tour.
“The biggest issue”
The duo presented a Power Point outlining student government’s goals for the upcoming legislative session, leading with affordability.
“Student affordability is the biggest issue facing students today,” Weber said.
Three ways were given to alleviate the problem at the luncheon.
Weber said firstly, GRIA supports a fully funded tuition freeze, warning against an unfunded freeze.
An unfunded freeze, Weber said, “puts the disparity of the cost on to the university, and, from there, they pass it on to students in forms of fees or cuts in faculty and staff and programs.”
A funded freeze allotted by the legislature, he said, only benefits universities.
Another potential route the legislature could go to ease student affordability, Weber said, was a tuition cap.
Student government proposed a 2 percent cap to the legislatures, keeping tuition from rising at a faster rate.
The cap would attract out-of-state students and keep in-state students in North Dakota, Weber said.
Bresciani said for full-time students, NDSU is the most popular university in the state for both in- and out-of-state residents.
Matejcek said student government is in favor of increasing scholarships within the state.
She said increasing the scholarship pool size and amounts bestowed to students would attract all students. Matejcek particularly focused on the North Dakota Academic Scholarship.
The NDAS gives up to $6,000 for full-time North Dakota residents who attend college in the state.
Matejcek said student government wants the scholarship maximum raised to $10,000, which would cost North Dakota $4 million per year.
The other possibility student government recommended the legislature look into included an open textbook program.
The University of Minnesota created an “open academics textbook catalog” to reduce costs.
Matejcek said the U of M is looking for partnerships with the program, which Matejcek said is worth looking into.
“We can offer the best quality at the most affordable price for students,” Matejcek said.
Weber said NDSU has four capital projects for the upcoming legislative session.
The first priority, he said, is Dunbar Hall.
Dunbar is “one of the highest used buildings on campus,” Weber said, “but it’s also one of the most unsafe.”
Student government needs governor recommendation and a vote in the state legislature to build Dunbar II, replacing the aging hall only after its completion, Weber said.
To maintain accreditation, Matejcek said updates must be done for the engineering complex and Sudro Hall.
In North Dakota, engineers and nursing students are in high demand, Weber said. The Colleges of Engineering and Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences have grown since the buildings were constructed.
“There’s not enough room for these programs,” she said.
Weber also brought up Harris Hall, an agricultural research building on Bolley Drive.
“We’re bringing in water in buckets to that hall because the running water isn’t sufficient there,” he said. “ … It’s really essential that that hall be renovated.”
The duo spoke about campus additions and improvements, too.
The state board of higher education needs to approve NDSU beginning construction of the fully student-funded aquatic center, Weber said.
Matejcek thanked the lawmakers in attendance for approving the “100-percent student-focused” STEM building.