The University of North Dakota (UND) and Williston State College (WSC) are embarking on conversations that could result in a much closer alignment between the two institutions. High employee turnover, limited resources, and rapidly expanding needs in the local community have hyper-taxed the ability of the WSC campus to maintain stable, consistent, effective operations. In response to these pressures, UND and WSC recently signed agreements that will help the institutions work in partnership to serve the needs of WSC in financial aid and financial services. These agreements represent the culmination of conversations among UND, WSC and the North Dakota University System (NDUS) office, and support the State Board of Higher Education’s vision of a unified system.
However, to continue the momentum in their collaborative initiatives, the three entities have decided to initiate conversations with stakeholders about expanding the collaborative arrangement to help address the needs in the Bakken region.
“In line with our strategic plan, these conversations will look at ways we can efficiently use our resources to create the best opportunities for students and the communities that we serve. This step forward will allow us to have open discussions with the community to see what needs should be addressed and where can we equitably fill the gaps to create a cohesive system that will take us into the future,” said NDUS Interim Chancellor Dr. Larry C. Skogen.
WSC has a strong history with UND. Before becoming Williston State College, the college operated as UND-Williston. The current finance and financial aid shared service agreement between the two institutions is rooted in this history. Moreover, in recent years, due to the oil boom in the western region, inadequate access to baccalaureate education has become a major and urgent problem. The state’s four-year public institutions are not located in the heart of the Bakken region, yet a growing concentration of the state’s population and employment opportunities are occurring there. Higher education leaders say that the situation creates inequities in education participation across the state, as well as creates hardships for students and disadvantages for many businesses.
“Williston State College reached out to us for some help as it continues to experience the stresses associated with being located in a rapidly expanding portion of the state. We are committed to looking at ways in which we might be of assistance to our North Dakota University System sister institution,” said UND President Robert Kelley.
UND continues to have an active presence in northwest North Dakota. The energy field is driving the northwest economy and UND has taken a leadership role in this area, especially through its new petroleum engineering program. Infrastructure needs are critical to the area especially in the areas of health services and UND has taken the state’s leadership role through the school of medicine and its healthcare initiatives.
“Discussions about furthering this relationship are timely given the enormous surge in population growth in cities like Crosby, Stanley, Tioga, Watford City and Williston. Any further cooperation between our institutions will only facilitate increased higher education access and support for this growing community,” said Dr. Raymond Nadolny, president of WSC. “The partnership will provide the opportunity to address growing workforce and infrastructure needs in the Bakken.”
The conversations will be based on the foundation of the NDUS strategic plan, which looks toward future efficiencies and savings that can be achieved by building economies of scale. Over time, the combined resources of both institutions will be able to provide increased access opportunities to growing student and business populations in Crosby, Stanley, Tioga, Watford City and Williston.
“The largest benefit of a UND-WSC partnership would be the increase in higher education access for this growing region,” said Nadolny.