The last meeting of the 2018 calendar year and the start of the legislative session was packed with plenty of business for the State Board of Higher Education. Among that business were updates on Envision 2030, a Lumina Foundation grant, and of course, processes involving the upcoming session.
In addition to preparations for the legislative session, much discussion also revolved around Gov. Doug Burgum’s 2019-21 Executive Budget, which had been presented the day before. Vice Chancellor of Administrative Affairs/Chief Financial Officer Tammy Dolan spoke to the Board about that. She noted that she was happy there was not a larger base budget reduction, and that Gov. Burgum had prioritized salary increases and benefits for state employees. She added that there were lingering concerns over how the five percent reduction would still be felt on top of the previous 17 percent budget cuts, but that the governor’s budget was a good starting point from which to move forward.
Additionally, significant time was spent discussing a proposed adjustment to certain tuition rates. The topic was brought up after it was noted that South Dakota’s Board of Regents had recently moved to allow the state’s public colleges and universities to offer in-state tuition rates to students from six surrounding states as a way to increase enrollment. During the Board meeting, North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani and North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman both noted that the move could result in decreased enrollments at their schools, and others in the state, if North Dakota didn’t respond with an adjusted rate for out-of-state students. Board members differed on whether or not to move forward with a proposal so quickly after hearing about it, and opted instead to move any decision on the topic to a special meeting later this month.
Chancellor Mark Hagerott’s reports started with an update on the Envision 2030 initiative, as well as bringing attention to the NDUS Biennial Review publication. He noted that progress was being made on the Polytechnic and Dual-Mission initiatives at Bismarck State College and Dickinson State University.
Vice Chancellor for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer Darin King then presented his IT status report. King stated that a recent phishing management system had been implemented throughout the university system.
Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Strategic Engagement Phil Wisecup provided the Board with an update on the Lumina Foundation Attainment Grant. Wisecup noted that his team had been working with the Consensus Council and workforce groups to further the goals outlined under that grant.
Dolan reported on updates to information requests and legislation tracking in advance of the upcoming session. She walked Board members through a handful of bills that had been proposed so far by legislative committees, and added that the list would only grow as the session began. Dolan noted that senior staff would be in contact with the Board throughout the session as legislation developed.
Legal Counsel Eric Olson provided briefs to the Board on Title IX Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and the status of a labor complaint.
The Board also heard bond proposals for the University of North Dakota, which included $25 million capital project request for parking infrastructure. Additionally, UND requested approval to pursue legislative changes related to project financing mechanisms. After discussion, the Board offered support for a proposal that would allow campuses to access financing through the Bank of North Dakota for infrastructure.
The Board held first readings of Policy 409 (Degrees Offered), and 440 (Enrollment Reporting), as well as the second readings of Policy 403.1 (Academic Program Requests) and 605.1 (Academic Freedom and Tenure; Academic Appointments). The latter was previously tabled pending further review by the Board. At the December meeting, the policy was brought back for open discussion and was ultimately approved.
North Dakota Student Association President Jared Melville noted that the association’s most recent meeting was held at VCSU. He touched on NDSA’s 2019-2023 strategic plan, collaborations among its executive team and system office during legislative session, and planned upcoming meetings.
Faculty Advisor to the Board Birgit Pruess provided an update from the Council of College Faculty. Pruess noted that CCF had two meetings since the last update, which included discussion on proposed Policy 605.1. Pruess noted that she’d conducted several trips to campuses, and across the Board had received tremendous feedback reflecting how dedicated faculty was systemwide to student success.
Staff Advisor to the Board Andy Wakeford provided an update from the North Dakota Staff Senate, which included numerous staff efforts throughout the system, such as fundraising. Wakeford noted that he had also met with staff members from campuses, and much of the feedback dealt with morale issues stemming from the lack of salary increases and the increase in workloads.
The Board also approved the final adoption of Policy 303.1 (Board meetings and agendas). The policy effectively allows for shorter, more efficient meetings through a procedural change that moves the Board’s consent agenda to the top of the meeting agenda. The consent agenda typically includes recommendations from the Board’s Academic and Student Affairs Committee, the Budget and Finance Committee, and the Audit Committee. Previous discussion among the Board had reached a consensus in that approving the consent agenda items would be done simply through a unanimous approval of the consent agenda, without having to review each item.
This month’s consent agenda included recommendations from Academic and Student Affairs to create new programs, such as a certificate and AAS in Agriculture Management (Dakota College at Bottineau); Master’s in Entrepreneurship (Dickinson State University); certificate in Go Global Academy (University of North Dakota); several different minors in Essential Studies (UND); and a certificate and minor in Adapted Physical Education (Valley City State University).
Other recommendations came from Budget and Finance on restating retirement plan summary documents; approval of the 2019-2020 Room, Board and Fee rate guidelines; spending authority for DUS for its May Hall and Woods Hall renovations; spending authority for Minot State University’s Dome renovations; and a funding transfer for VCSU from its operations to capital assets lines.
During the meeting the Board also presented Margaret Dahlberg, Ph.D. with a plaque of recognition for her time as VCSU Interim President.
The next regular Board meeting is scheduled for Jan. 24, via video teleconference.