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UND's proposed budget increases by 0.12% from previous biennium

Armacost: UND's budget stability a result of active monitoring, financial acumen of department heads

UND president Andrew Armacost
UND president Andrew Armacost. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — UND's proposed biennial budget will increase by a fraction of a percent from its previous level, says the university's vice president of finance and operations.

Budgets for the 11 universities within the North Dakota University System are set on a biennial basis, and must be approved by the Legislature. UND’s proposed 2023-25 budget sits at $208,619,443, an increase of $245,509 or 0.12% from the 2021-23 budget, according to Vice President of Finance and Operations Karla Mongeon-Stewart.

Mongeon-Stewart said although the proposed budget is increasing slightly, UND will not petition for any major budgetary changes when it makes its request before the Legislature in the upcoming session.

"Our request is for a hold-even budget (no increase or decrease), plus funding for the state’s share of any approved salary increases," said Mongeon-Stewart.

UND President Andrew Armacost cited the university’s commitment to an active budgetary model, and the financial acumen of its college’s deans, as a reason for the budget’s stability.

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“Fiscal health is strong at UND,” said Armacost. “The budgetary model we’ve employed over the past five years or so has been able to withstand change. Its success is a testament to the great work of our deans, who operate within their constraints.”

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Student enrollment has an impact on the way budgets are determined. The more student credit hours are taken at a given university, the higher the institution's budget is likely to be.

UND’s enrollment increased by 102 students from the previous fall semester, to a total of 13,786, according to the North Dakota University System’s census data report. This trend is in contrast to other institutions, such as NDSU, which saw enrollment decline to 12,242 in the same period, a decrease of 219.

At the end of October, North Dakota State President David Cook said declining enrollment at the Fargo campus will result in a $10.5 million cut in state funding there through the next biennium — a 5.48% drop in NDSU’s base funding, Forum News Service reported last month.

Cook, who is in his first year as president, said the cuts at NDSU "will be difficult because after a number of years of cutting, it is becoming more difficult to make reductions without impacting our core academic mission.”

Mongeon-Stewart said a component of UND’s commitment to an active budgetary model is monitoring the efficacy of its course load.

"We actively manage our course load with tools such as combining sections of the same course, and offering courses in alternate semesters," she said. "This ensures we are maximizing our resources, while continuing to serve our students, and offering the courses they need for their degrees."

Mongeon-Stewart also said UND’s operating expenses have decreased as a result of the university's efforts in recent years to decommission obsolete facilities on campus.

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"UND has eliminated 1,088,899 gross square feet in facilities, which has resulted in a $230.7 million reduction in deferred maintenance expenditures," said Mongeon-Stewart.

By reducing expenditures on obsolete facilities, UND has been able to invest tuition dollars into its deferred maintenance fund, a repository for future campus repairs.

“When you fall on hard times, maintenance dollars are some of the first to go,” Mongeon-Stewart said. “Over the past five years, we’ve committed 1% of tuition revenue annually to the fund. This ensures we have the funds to cover needed repairs, even during years of budgetary shortfall.”

The university is pursuing a number of budgetary requests before the upcoming legislative session. One is a $4 million proposal to address redundancy within the university’s computer network.

According to Mongeon-Stewart, the university operates on a single computer network. It wants to add a second network as a backup to guarantee connectivity in the event of a university-wide disruption to its primary network.

mongeon-stewart-karla_photo.jpg
UND VP of finance and operations Karla Mongeon-Stewart

UND also expects to benefit from a proposed NDUS initiative, designed to address workforce development and readiness.

Pending legislative appropriation in the upcoming session, the Workforce Education Innovation Grant would delegate funds to develop curricula, purchase technology and equipment, and train instructors in the fields most salient to North Dakota's workforce needs, according to an NDUS publication.

Of these legislative funds, $24 million would be appropriated directly to NDUS' 11 institutions. NDUS' five two-year institutions would receive a combined $10 million, $8 million would go to its four-year regional universities and the remaining $6 million would be shared between UND and NDSU.

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“Funding would be tied to programs that contribute to key areas of the workforce," said Armacost. "This includes health care and education, but also potential fields such as cybersecurity, space operations and quantum science."

As mentioned by Mongeon-Stewart, Gov. Doug Burgum has also petitioned the Legislature to consider salary increases for NDUS employees in the upcoming budget.

According to Armacost and Mongeon-Stewart, the governor has proposed a 5% salary increase for all employees in each year of the biennium. The Legislature will determine, through a bill, how the proposed salary increases will be administered

“It is important to know that these merit increases apply to all state employees," said Armacost. "State agencies, not only those pertaining to higher education, have provided their input to the governor's staff. Salary increases are a standard part of the governor's proposed budget and the legislative appropriation each biennium. The size of the merit increases, commonly stated as a percentage increase, vary from biennium to biennium."

Banish covers news pertaining to K-12 and higher education, as well as county commission coverage.
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