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Higher ed board considers extra $5M for Oil Patch

WILLISTON -- Higher education leaders will get a firsthand look today at the challenges facing colleges in the Oil Patch.

During a meeting at Williston State College, the state Board of Higher Education will consider whether to ask the Legislature for $5 million to target western North Dakota campuses.

The money would address housing shortages, faculty turnover, campus security, academic programs and other needs of campuses affected by oil development.

Board President Grant Shaft said the energy impact dollars proposed are geared for Williston State, Dickinson State University, Minot State University and Bismarck State College.

"Historically, a lot of higher ed has focused on the eastern part of the state because that's where the big research institutions are," Shaft said. "We need to really aggressively look at how higher ed can help in the Oil Patch."

If board members approve the proposal, it would be forwarded to legislators as part of the North Dakota University System's 2013-15 budget request.

Chancellor Bill Goetz said if the dollars are approved, the campuses would apply each quarter for funding. Some requests may be related to salaries or housing allowances for employees or security improvements for campuses, he said.

"If we're going to continue with quality education at those campuses, these kinds of impacts need to be recognized and dealt with," Goetz said.

Board members, who will be touring the Williston community today, also will consider other items affecting campuses in the

Oil Patch:

- Williston State College is requesting to enter into a lease agreement with the college's foundation to build apartments for college employees and local government and health care workers.

- Williston State is proposing to add a bachelor's degree in applied management to meet a growing work-force need in northwestern North Dakota. Goetz said he's recommending the four-year business degree be supported.

- Dakota College at Bottineau is exploring a fire science technology program to address a shortage of trained firefighters in the state and the increased risk of fire associated with oil development in western North Dakota.

Forum reporter Marino Eccher contributed to this report.

Dalrymple is a reporter stationed in the Oil Patch for Forum Communications Co.