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University presidents protest possibility of less funding: SBHE says bill creates $6.2M loss for NDUS

BISMARCK -- The State Board of Higher Education heard passionate testimony at a meeting Thursday from many college and university presidents in response to a House bill that could reduce the amount of funding institutions were expecting to receiv...

BISMARCK - The State Board of Higher Education heard passionate testimony at a meeting Thursday from many college and university presidents in response to a House bill that could reduce the amount of funding institutions were expecting to receive this coming biennium.
House Bill 1003 alters a funding formula that was developed by a task force and put in place during the last legislative session. It funded the schools based on completed credit hours, effectively creating a reward system for campuses that saw increased enrollment and retention.
“We had a funding formula,” North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman said at the meeting held in Bismarck. “I refuse to call what the House has given us a formula. It’s a political statement. We can discuss all day why, but it’s no longer a funding formula.”
North Dakota University System Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs Laura Glatt told the board HB 1003 decreases the weight put on completed remedial course hours, changes the institutional size factor, and in an attempt to recognize lack of economy of scale, changes the credit hour completion factor in a way so that it generates more credit hours at some campuses and fewer at others.
HB 1003 would also make institutions pay for salary increases and the increased cost of utilities with money from the formula, instead of allowing campuses to use other funds, Glatt said. While the bill still allows for a $37.1 million increase in funding, the cost of those salaries and utilities is estimated to run the system $43.3 million, creating a $6.2 million shortfall, according to board documents.
Glatt said “in other state agency budgets, employee compensation and benefit adjustments were funded,” just not for higher education.
Because of this and the possibility of a tuition freeze, many institutional leaders said they would have to cut back on programs and services, if not eliminate some altogether.
University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley said at this point it would be hard to assess the magnitude of potential concerns HB 1003 would create, but the school is dealing with cost increases it can’t control, such as utilities and complying with federal, state and NCAA regulations.
But many other schools had more extreme reactions to the bill.
Williston State College President Raymond Nadolny said if the bill passed as is, he would have to cut faculty and staff, not sign on for a shared services agreement with UND, and completely eliminate two sports, among other things.
“The college is truly perplexed at what additional evidence is required to prove the fastest growing college in the state ... is in need of support,” he said.
Valley City State University President Tisa Mason got emotional when she told the board that some of her employees have children using free and reduced lunch vouchers.
Mayville State University President Gary Hagen and Lake Region State College President Doug Darling both pointed to rapidly increasing enrollment at their institutions and asked the board how they were expected to fund the changes they saw as improvements.
“We were supposed to get reimbursed on the backside,” Darling said. “We need the funding that was generated by those completed credit hours.”
North Dakota Student Association President Zach Niebuhr also said his group passed a resolution against HB 1003.
Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, told the board they should work on developing relationships with lawmakers.
“I think you need to focus on maintaining the integrity of the formula,” he said.
The bill was introduced to the Senate Thursday and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

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