In the past two years the university system has seen significant gains in several areas, many of which wouldn’t have been possible without legislative support. Had that support been absent, the foundation for further collaboration among our 11 colleges and universities, or with other state agencies, just would not have been possible. I want to thank the legislature for its work with higher education, and to highlight several of higher education’s key accomplishments.
We’ve seen improvements, such as two of our five community colleges are ranked in the top 25 in the nation for graduation rates, one of our research universities is among the top nationally for its online program innovations, and all our campuses are consistently adapting – adaptations which not only give students the opportunity to find more success, but that created an economic impact that totaled $5.2 billion during the 2017 fiscal year. Two of our campuses are innovating further. BSC and DSU are taking action toward the expanded models of becoming a Polytechnic and Dual Mission, respectively. Other high points related to Academic and Student Affairs include:
- NDUS Transcript Exchange;
- Support for open educational resources;
- Revised program approval process; more final authorization culminating at a lower level;
- Access to an NDUS common application for admission via the K-12 education portal.
In terms of cost savings, our system has put in place additional measures to encourage more efficiencies from the system office through the campus level of operations. The budget reductions in ’17-19 resulted in a reduction of staff and faculty positions by approximately 700. The needs-based budget I and the board are advocating for would provide more stability to our campuses, by our workforce and by the most important resource of all – our students. Other, more technology-focused shared services include widespread standardization across Campus Solutions, Finance and HR, consolidated payroll processing, our Learning Management System – Blackboard, our collaboration suite – Microsoft Office 365, and most critical to student privacy – our Security Ecosystem. Our work continues with trying to leverage predictive analytics to improve student outcomes. We will be focusing our efforts in this area by using the ND State Longitudinal Data System (NDSLDS) in the future. We continue to support student success through the use of intervention solutions (Starfish) that help campus based student support personnel and faculty to work effectively with students.
Our Envision 2030 effort, which has gathered feedback and built consensus meeting-by-meeting, has brought forward several recommendations. They are:
- A four percent salary increase for faculty and staff;
- Exploration of a funding stabilization mechanism for higher education in the state;
- Expanded online programming that increases access to high quality programs already in place to adult and geographically-isolated students;
- Increased support for research universities to innovate and encourage industry partnership;
- Establish a privacy advisory group to advise the State Board on issues surrounding big data and privacy;
- Continued collaboration with other state agencies and their education-related missions.
Beyond those achievements, NDUS has overseen the inclusion of Student Achievement Measure (SAM) data to convey graduation and retention statistics, which clearly highlight a nearly 73% success retention and completion rate. We’ve partnered with the Office of Management and Budget to align our procurement processes with the state. And, as noted in our report to the Interim Legislative Higher Education Committee and corroborated by a recent N.D. Auditor’s Office report, Open Educational Resources have resulted in substantial savings for our students. Additionally, the State Higher Education Executive Officer Association (SHEEO) used NDUS as a positive example in a report issued last year on best practices in higher education financial reporting.
As TECH ND testified before the Senate Education Committee last week, the state is facing a time of unprecedented change. As you know, change brings with it an equally unprecedented opportunity for the state and our public higher education system to become leaders within emerging industries. The NDUS is well-positioned to help fill the need for this expected growth, which represents a much higher rate than the average national demand.
[Originally offered as testimony in support of HB 1003.]