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UND to invest in new majors, faculty and renovations after cutting $21.5 million

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota is going to invest in several facilities and programs, interim President Ed Schafer announced Friday. In the lower of level of UND's Steam Plant near boilers that are more than 50 years old, Schafer s...

GRAND FORKS -- The University of North Dakota is going to invest in several facilities and programs, interim President Ed Schafer announced Friday.

In the lower of level of UND's Steam Plant near boilers that are more than 50 years old, Schafer said $21.5 million in cuts made to the university's budget have resulted in a reshaped funding model that will put about $2 million annually toward repairing the plant.

"This will be an ongoing different way to approach the budget at the university for the years to come," Schafer said. "Thanks to that reshaped budget, the University of North Dakota is currently investing the resources found in a number of campus priorities."

Gov. Jack Dalrymple's office announced budget cuts in February that totaled $12.6 million at UND and it's School of Medicine and Health Sciences but Schafer cut deeper to $21.5 million. In early May, Dalrymple's office announced another 6 percent cut for the 2017-19 biennium. Schafer said due to the altered funding model UND would only have to find roughly $7 million of the new $16 million cut over two years.

Recent cuts meant eliminating 138 positions on campus through layoffs, buyouts and restructuring. At the press conference Friday, Schafer said about 20 people were laid off but could still be rehired into other positions at the university.

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"This has been a hard time to go through, it has been difficult, but now as we have reshaped that budget we see results and we're able to invest in the top priorities in our university," he said.

New priorities

Schafer also announced other changes including the launch of two new majors in the College of Business and Public Administration; a bachelor's degree in innovation and entrepreneurship and bachelor's of leadership.

The College of Engineering and Mines is hiring one Petroleum Engineering faculty and one Mechanical Engineering faculty with the intention of hiring one or two more every year in the coming years due to program growth. The College of Education and Human Development will also be reorganized.

"The end result of that will be the streamlining of administration costs and sometimes interference in the structure of delivering education," Schafer said in reference to the education college.

The School of Law is also hiring two new faculty members.

A $7 million renovation of O'Kelly and Merrifield halls is planned as well as a $3.8 million renovation of the SMHS building that is in the process of being vacated for a newly constructed medical school. The old Med School building will be used for relocating university divisions and in that process Schafer said some buildings will be "shuttered," something the Herald reported in April.

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The reshaped budget is funding a Math Active Learning Lab, slated to open in 2017 and serve more than 2,800 students across all majors each year.

The UND Police Department is also receiving $610,000 for a campus camera security project.

The Steam Plant and it's seven aging boilers provide heat to campus, North Dakota Vision Services/School for the Blind and contracts with Altru Health System. Originally built in 1909, it needs about $20 million in repairs and Schafer said including repair funds in the budget was a priority.

"I am pleased with how this has unfolded," he said. "I think we have shown and will continue to show the investments in this university that deliver our responsibility as a public institution in the state of North Dakota."


New income

Undergraduate students will see a 2 percent tuition increase next year and Schafer said those dollars will not go toward restoring buildings, adding programs or funding faculty lines.

Each percentage that tuition goes up, revenues increase by about $800,000, giving the university $1.6 million for the next fiscal year. The university also got $650,000 from the UND Alumni Association and Foundation and Schafer said a significant piece of those two pools of money -- totalling more than $2 million -- will go into the College of Arts and Sciences.

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"That department is the largest department on campus and it is the foundational strength of a liberal arts college. As we now look at adding new faculty, new programs, a lot of those dollars will go to Dean (Debbie) Storrs."

The School of Law and SMHS students will see a 2.5 percent tuition increase next year, with the  revenue going back into those divisions.

During the budget reduction process this spring, UND suspended its men's golf and baseball programs. The doctorate in communication sciences and disorders, a master's in theater arts, minor in American Sign Language and music therapy programs have all stopped accepting new students.

Schafer said the university has budgeted for about a $1 million reduction in tuition revenue for the next year due to those lost students.

As the budget was shaped, Schafer said people from within the university came forward with ideas because they realized it was an opportunity to invest in the future of the state.

"As we waded through those difficult times people started to understand how the process works," he said.

Incoming President Mark Kennedy has been kept abreast of ongoing budget talks at UND.

"President Kennedy has expressed his support for where we're going with the budget," Schafer said. "He has indicated not only to me personally but to the public that he agrees with the direction we're taking and he is committed to implementing the 2017 budget we've put on the table."

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