Regular meeting covers updates on budget, IT plans and strategic processes
The State Board of Higher Education tackled numerous topics at its recent meeting, including an update to a presidential library lease, a new information technology plan, and amendments to its strategic plan that included an increased attainment goal for the state. Included in the day’s talks were details on the 2015-17 and 2017-19 budgets.
North Dakota University System Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan presented to the Board on budget reduction plans. She brought the Board’s attention to impacts of the budget allotment of 6.55 percent for the 2015-17 budget and the 10 percent reduction by Gov. Jack Dalrymple for the 2017-19 budget. She stressed that the plan presented was the best estimate at the time of the meeting, adding that it wouldn’t be finalized until the end of the next legislative session when the budget was set.
Dolan stated that 70-80 percent of typical budgets were comprised of salaries and benefits, so budget cuts in the 6-10 percent range would impact personnel. Voluntary separation and early retirement options had been looked into at the system and institutional level, as had reductions-in-force, which Dolan noted was usually the last option sought in order to retain a qualified workforce. She said that 60-70 percent of the identified savings that had been realized for the latest allotment had come from personnel changes by closing vacant positions, combining others, reducing the number of part-time employees and offering early retirements. She said this was done throughout the system with campuses aiming to maintain as little impact to student success as possible.
Board member Kevin Melicher asked if there was any indication that further allotments would be implemented. Dolan said that it was unlikely the state would see another allotment before the legislature met again. She said she did expect that the legislature would expand on the 10 percent reduction for the 2017-19 biennial budget.
During the meeting, Dolan also spoke about the Tuition and Fees Waivers study group report. She noted that since the numbers were put together in April, changes within the state’s budget outlook had presented challenges to the campuses. Additional time is needed to create updated recommendations based on current budget forecasts. Dolan asked the Board to allow for an extension on the discussion, which was granted.
Rep. Mark Sanford, chairman of the Interim Legislative Higher Education Committee, spoke at length to begin the Board meeting. He noted that he had seen good things from the Board, and the system, in recent months, and urged Board members and system staff to continue that progress. He stated that the interim committee had met on eight campuses and was likely the most aggressive of the interim committees, with numerous major studies underway. He thanked Chancellor Mark Hagerott and system staff, noting that the interim committee’s work couldn’t have gone forward without the data they provided. He expanded that gratitude to the campuses, which had been “marvelous” hosts throughout all the meetings.
Sanford stated that the committee would give a report to the full legislative assembly after the election, to bring sitting and newly-elected legislators up-to-speed on the state of higher education in North Dakota. He said five major studies including Board governance, campus visions, administrative costs, the facilities master plan, and course delivery methods, would all help color that reporting along with updates on the Challenge Grant, auditing, and more. He also spoke about proposed legislation that involved the loan forgiveness program, e-transcripts for public schools, and potential changes to the funding formula.
Vice Chancellor for Strategic Engagement Linda Donlin then presented on amendments to the strategic plan. She began by referencing the annual retreat in June, where the Board discussed the plan and potential adjustments to it in light of the financial climate of the state and the ongoing Envision 2030 discussions. Through a prioritizing exercise, the Board detailed what they’d felt were the most important issues, including implementation of shared services, improved retention and attainment numbers, and metric-driven performance measures. Donlin drew the Board’s attention toward two changes. The first is a change in the attainment goals, from 60 percent by 2025 to 65 percent by 2025 and the possibility of increasing it to 70 percent by 2030. The attainment goal – which refers to the percentage of a state’s citizens who have an associate’s degree or higher – was increased in line with the Lumina Foundation’s goal to increase attainment throughout the U.S. while also counting high-quality credentials and certificates, and paralleled efforts in adjacent states to do the same. The second goal is defining metrics by which to evaluate presidents and the chancellor. Donlin noted that it could be achieved by rolling up the new three- and five-year retention and completion goals Chancellor Hagerott had asked the presidents to submit. The Board had a discussion about doing that, and felt it made the most sense to do it by tiers (two-year colleges, four-year and research universities). Language will be adjusted accordingly.
After extensive discussion among Board members and system staff, the Board moved to accept the strategy to increase attainment, but to table further strategic plan updates until the tuition study is reviewed, likely in October. The tuition study is a big factor in accomplishing Goal One: Deliver Degrees That Are the Best Value in the Nation. The motion passed, which will enable the system to start working on a plan to achieve the new attainment goal and seek grant funding through the Lumina Foundation to help with that process.
Nick Vaughn, legal counsel from the Attorney General’s office assigned to the university system, brought forward a lease agreement for the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. The initial agreement was brought to the Board during its annual meeting this summer, where an amended agreement was asked for containing stronger language that held the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library Foundation responsible for any misuse of the premises. A second provision would allow the land to be brought back to the system if no construction occurred within 10 years. Vaughn said the foundation had signed the agreement. Dickinson State University President Thomas Mitzel noted that his university had been working closely with the foundation, and was happy with the lease as written at the time of the meeting. He said many at the university were excited at the prospect for the presidential library to be constructed and open in Dickinson.
Minot State University President Steve Shirley brought forward a new mission statement and strategic plan. Shirley said the previous strategic plan was titled “Vision 2013,” which had since become dated. The new plan, titled “Empowering Generations,” contains new vision and mission statements, six broad goals, and comes in the lead-up to next year’s campus visit by the Higher Learning Commission. The new mission statement reads “Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.”
NDUS Chief Information Officer Darin King presented the strategic IT plan, which is required by law to be updated every two years. King spoke on IT systems and security initiatives that had been implemented throughout the system’s 11 colleges and universities, offering more specific details on functional consolidation of certain systems. He also spoke of IT goals moving forward, including supporting NDUS infrastructure needs, improving IT-enabled business processes and services, improving student learning and users’ focus, and improving collaborative efforts. King elaborated on all the goals, noting that collaborations specifically had increased within the system’s campuses, and with other state agencies.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott presented an update from the system, including personnel updates and presidents’ goals, which he had approved per Board policy. Hagerott then presented for Board approval an overview of his goals, which consist of three parts: overseeing the presidents’ goal accomplishment, leading the system and managing the system office.
He noted that data inconsistencies had begun to be addressed, key positions had been filled, strategic planning had been implemented, and initiatives involving Strategic Planning Online, Open Educational Resources and Predictive Analytics had all been progressing forward.
Hagerott said that the system had begun working with DPI to implement best practices. That cooperation was being undertaken to help high schools and higher education work together. He noted that this “distributed think tank” was moving quickly to address ongoing issues. Hagerott added that more scholarships had been awarded under the BakkenU initiative, and technology-based programs were progressing under the Nexus ND initiative, which focused on Cybersecurity, High Performance Computing and Unmanned Aerial Systems.
Hagerott then provided details on studies that had been undertaken by the Chancellor’s Cabinet, including retention, mission, tuition and fees, governance, administrative costs and more. The Board later approved his goals.
Board member Mike Ness provided an update from the recent, annual Joint Boards meeting, which had concentrated much of its discussion on the implications for higher education and K-12 of new requirements for dual-credit instruction.
Board Chair Kathleen Neset reported on Board training in light of budget constraints, touching on training that could be provided by bringing in speakers from various higher ed organizations, rather than having Board members travel to meetings. They also discussed how the Chancellor’s Cabinet study on governance could help focus training needs and opportunities.
Hagerott detailed the next steps in the Envision 2030 timeline. He noted that two Pillar discussions had already taken place successfully at DSU and Williston State College, on diversity and energy, respectively. Further Pillar talks would continue to incorporate perspectives from all stakeholder groups throughout the state on the topics of agriculture, health care, liberal arts & humanities, manufacturing, technology, tomorrow’s student, and the whole student.
Melicher gave an update on the NDUS Foundation, noting that its available funds had increased by nearly 1,000 percent, from $68 to $6,500. He noted that a financial committee had been created to approve and award expenditures including grants and scholarships. He stated that the foundation was looking into grant opportunities to increase funding availability and potentially increase scholarship funding through Bakken U. That initiative had recently awarded two $5,000 scholarships to students at Bismarck State College and MiSU. He added that a partnership with Gate City Bank had created an opportunity to give two faculty awards.
The Board unanimously approved the consent agenda from the budget, finance and facilities committee, as well as unanimously approving recommendations from the academic and student affairs committee.
In other business, the Board held the first reading of policies 302.3 (budget and finance), 1200.1 (information technology consolidation services), and 1202.3 (data policy). Additionally, the Board set the 2017 meeting schedule, which allowed for a mix of face-to-face and distance meeting options.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27 at Dakota College at Bottineau.