DSU Foundation looks to free itself of debt: Higher ed board to consider buying organization’s assets

In an attempt to clear itself of financial debt, the Dickinson State University Foundation will go before the North Dakota Board of Higher Education today, proposing a plan to liquidate its assets.

In an attempt to clear itself of financial debt, the Dickinson State University Foundation will go before the North Dakota Board of Higher Education today, proposing a plan to liquidate its assets.
The Foundation - now under the receivership of Sean Smith, a certified public accountant and partner at Bismarck’s Tschider and Smith law firm - will ask for the approval to sell five real estate properties the organization owns.
Smith has advised the Foundation to sell three of its properties - Bosch, Altringer and Miller apartment complexes - to DSU.
The university needs North Dakota University System interim Chancellor Larry Skogen to ask for a legislative amendment and a bill in the state House of Representatives so the university can seek $3.5 million in bonds to acquire the properties.
Marie Moe, executive director of enrollment services and communication, said DSU is interested in the three housing units.
“These buildings have been affiliated with the school for a long time, so we would like to keep them and provide students with a level of consistency,” Moe said. “These buildings provide a different type of housing option for our students and would also allow us to resolve a couple of long-term concerns regarding faculty and staff recruiting and retention.”
Moe said the university will propose House Bill 1003 to acquire the three student housing properties from the Foundation to the bond and an amendment to House Bill 1139 to help renovate Woods Hall, an unused dormitory.
The three buildings contain 40 apartments, most of which are currently occupied by tenants affiliated with the school.
The Foundation is also being advised to sell Blue Hawk Square, an off-campus living facility on Villard Street, and and Hawks Point, a senior living space located on campus.
If approved, the plan could help the Foundation begin to pay back the millions of dollars of debt it has accrued from purchasing real estate, along with the loss of a lawsuit filed by a construction company.
The Foundation deferred comment to Smith, who did not return calls seeking comment on Wednesday.
“At this point, the university is in a very good financial situation. We don’t have any debt,” Moe said. “The bonding, if approved, would be the only current source of debt for the school.”
Moe said if the school can buy the three housing units from the Foundation, it would put the Foundation in a better financial position and would be a “win-win” for both parties.
“The Foundation has fallen on a bad patch,” Skogen said. “The whole reason that we stepped in and asked for help with the Foundation’s financial issues is that its role is vitally important to the University.”
While the university is actively seeking the purchase of properties, this is just the first step in a long process.
“At this time, we are looking at the option, but can make the decision to back out at any time,” Moe said.
In the past, the school has disassociated itself with the Foundation and its mismanagement of funds, which includes allegedly using scholarships to cover overhead expenses. But, Moe said the Foundation has provided substantial financial support for students in the past and remains a great resource for alumni.
“We look forward to working with the Foundation in this difficult time to help resolve their financial issues,” Moe said.
According to a meeting agenda for Thursday’s hearing, representatives of DSU and the Foundation have met recently to help resolve past differences between the two parties and resume Foundation payments for current student scholarships.
“We want the Foundation to do well so that it can start supporting our students again,” Skogen said.
DSFU’s Interim CEO Glen Young and board member Patrick Healy did not respond to calls made by The Press on Wednesday to comment on the Foundations financial situation.

Kessler is a reporter for The Dickinson Press. Call her at 701-456-1208.

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