As the State Board of Higher Education meets this week, the North Dakota House of Representatives will likely be voting on its recommended appropriations for higher education for the next biennium. Then in the next few weeks, the Senate will start working on its recommendations.
We appreciate the House Appropriations Committee’s actions supporting increased funding for needs-based and merit-based student aid, campus security, special assessments payoffs and IT investments that increase security, enhance efficiency and promote student success.
The Board’s goal is to ensure the best student outcomes based on a well-planned strategy, using a responsible budget. We recognize that, like every state entity, based on lower revenue projections, the North Dakota University System must responsibly adjust its original $489 million request (which included one-time funding for things like deferred maintenance). Yet we must also seek the funding that is necessary to achieve the goals of our strategic plan without negatively impacting student tuition.
The Executive Recommendation from the Governor’s Office was for a $333.7 million increase (including one-time funding), and we can certainly work with that. However, HB1003, the House Appropriation’s bill, is recommending only a $139.8 million increase for higher education, and also includes restructuring recommendations that may have constitutional and accreditation implications. The Board will be discussing its position on these recommendations at our upcoming meeting.
North Dakota’s elected officials are historically known for thinking in the long term, developing strategies that will make fiscal and practical sense for North Dakotans for generations. These carefully implemented policies are meant to win the marathon, not the 50-yd. dash. It is with that very same intention in mind that the Board developed its transformative, pragmatic 2015-2020 strategic plan, the NDUS Edge.
Many of our strategic plan elements are straightforward and will be absorbed into our base budget with existing resources. Yet other portions require a commitment of additional funds and time to be properly executed. We know this is what is best for our students, both today and long into the future, and also what will maximize the strengths of the unified system.
Our vision is to inspire our future by unleashing the potential of the university system to lead the nation in educational attainment. Our unified strategic plan, coupled with a reasonable budget to accomplish it, will ensure we are able to provide the high-quality education our students deserve at the value our taxpayers expect. We believe that our legislative leaders want the same thing, and by working together, we can achieve that goal.